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Play the Stall Catchers online game to help identify blocked blood vessels in living mouse brains, advancing Alzheimer’s research.
EyesOnALZ is an online citizen science project that enables you to take part in research on Alzheimer’s disease by playing puzzle games, the first of which is called Stall Catchers. It’s a project from the Human Computation Institute in collaboration with the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab at Cornell University. In playing the game you not only speed up research for treatment and drug discovery, but you learn more about the disease and how it can impact your life, or your loved ones.
Alzheimer’s disease (and other forms of dementia) is associated with reduced blood flow in the brain, so researchers are observing the mechanisms that cause this. One mechanism they’ve identified is that capillaries can become blocked by white blood cells sticking to the walls of blood vessels causing “stalls”, so blood no longer flows. In Alzheimer’s, 2% of blood vessels can become stalled which causes blood flow to be reduced by 30%, which worsens the conditions of the disease. By reversing stalls in mice, researchers at the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab have discovered that symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be reduced, but developing a treatment for humans requires a lot more time and energy. It takes them one hour to collect data and one week for them to analyze it, and even sophisticated machine recognition can’t do it, so that’s where citizen science steps in.
When you play the online game Stall Catchers, you speed up research drastically. In the game, you look at live microscope movies of mouse brains and try to find stalled vessels. When you catch stalls you build up your score to level up and compete on the game leaderboard to receive badges for various achievements. It’s similar to other citizen science games like Stardust@Home and EyeWire, which are partners in developing EyesOnALZ, which have been very successful in scientific discoveries.