Stall Catchers: A Game that Speeds Up Alzheimer's Research
Logo by Stall Catchers / CC BY-SA 4.0 (Check Refences for Links)
Stall Catchers: A Game that Speeds Up Alzheimer's Research

By orbithunter | Orbit's Journal | 1 Mar 2020


Thumbnail: Logo by Stall Catchers / CC BY-SA 4.0

Some of you might have wanted to help in the progress of scientific research. However, you either need to be a scientist or donate your money for science. Both of these ways are a bit of a long shot for most of us. As a result, we just end up in the sidelines waiting for science to progress. This is now becoming less true due to the rise of citizen science. Citizen Science is scientific research conducted with the help of non-professional people like us. Together with the rise of the internet, citizen science projects have become more common and accessible to many people.

One of these projects is Stall Catchers, an online game dedicated to Alzheimer's research. 

 

The Stall Catchers Game

Stall Catchers is an online game developed by EyesOnALZ. The objective of the game is to search for "stalls" in the movies of red blood cells in a mouse's brain."Stalls" are clogged capillaries where blood is no longer flowing. Catching stalls help players build up their score and level up. Players are allowed to compete individually or by joining teams. The picture below shows the UI you will see while you play the game.

Screenshot from 2017-05-30 16-45-51 by Stall Catchers used under CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edited from original

Screenshot from 2017-05-30 16-45-51 by Stall Catchers used under CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edited from original

This is what you will typically see when you play the game. This is what they call the " [1] Virtual Microscope" because it shows a zoomed version of the recorded movies of capillaries in mouse brains. For this example, you only have to focus on the area marked by the orange line. You must pay attention to this area throughout the movie which could last about less than a minute. 

[2] This is the Movie Slider - it allows you to show any part of the movie. You move the button back and forth to replay a certain timeframe in case you missed something.

[3] This is the Sensitivity Bar - This is the gauge of how accurate you can see a stall in a certain movie. The higher it is, the more points you gain from getting the correct answer.

Stalls are characterized by black spots in a vessel (colored white). If you see one, You click on the [4] "Stalled" button marked in red. Once you click "Stalled", you will be given a chance to mark the black spot on the movie. If the marked vessel seems fine, you must click [4] "Flowing" and proceed to the next movie.

Why search for stalls?

Protein Infographic

One aspect related to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia known since its discovery is the reduction of blood flow in the brain. This reduction in blood flow may be compared to a headrush experienced when standing too quickly. Nobody knew why this blood reduction existed or how to prevent it.

With the aid of new imaging techniques developed by Schaffer-Nishimura Lab at Cornell University, researchers were able to observe blood vessel flow in the brain of live mice. They discovered "stalls" that may be responsible for blood reduction in blood flow, and ultimately lead to Alzheimer's progression.

Understanding the mechanisms that drive stalls can lead to identify drugs that can prevent stalls from forming and hopefully provide us a method of treating Alzheimer's. By contributing our time by finding these stalls, we can help speed up this research.

 

Conclusion

Stall Catchers is a game with the main objective of locating stalls in blood vessels in the brain. Stalls are believed to be largely related to reduced blood flow in the brain and ultimately relate to Alzheimer's disease. Knowing how these stalls form and work will lead us to find a treatment for Alzheimer's. This is where volunteers come in. By helping this project, we can also help speed up research and finally find a treatment and cure for Alzheimer's disease.

You can register on there website here: https://stallcatchers.com/main

You can also read this paper for additional reading: http://hcjournal.org/wecurealz/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Stall-Catchers-Science-fact-sheet-v1-2018-08-25.pdf

 



Orbit's Journal
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