Understanding the basics of cell biology, I believe, is vital for an understanding and support for infectious disease research. This is why I left the lab and starting learning about video games. I am the PI on an R25 grant from the NIH, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, awarded to the FAS Learning Technologies Program at the MICDL.org. Game evaluation and distribution work are funded by the Entertainment Software Association Foundation.
Now I am about 3 months from releasing Immune Defense, a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game in which the player can deploy 7 types of white blood cells against bacteria, parasites, viruses and even cancer… Our goal is to teach the basics of cell biology. What proteins do, what receptors do, how cells respond to signals in the environment, how random events lead to predictable behaviors and how the immune system is powerful at killing and how proteins allow for interpretation of signals and make their interactions specifically targeted and how pathogens manage to evade the killing… The player must battle HIV, TB, Listeria, a Malaria-like organism and many many more.
IMMUNE DEFENSE game description:
Players use brand new Microbot technology to control cells and molecules. Players deploy Eater cells (Neutrophils) with their LPS receptors (TLR4) to eat E. coli bacteria. Eaters have powerful “Poison Pods” full of acid and oxidizing molecules that dissolve E. coli bacteria effectively. All is well, until Streptococcus pneumoniae comes along and your LPS receptor no longer works… Your trusty collaborating scientists however, have given you an upgrade, you can now control the Complement Receptor on Eater Cells. And the Complement receptor works, however, it has a lower affinity, so it takes a bit longer to catch those rascally Streptococcus pneumoniae … which is fine, until some Staphylococcus aureus show up. The Staphylococcus aureus take a long time for the Eater cells to dissolve….