Genentech Video Game: Inside a Human Lymph Node

Inside a lymph node, there are channels and sinuses through which lymph flows, much like a labyrinth.

Lymph nodes are happening places—a bit like huge outdoor marketplaces with winding aisles and alleyways and various vendors to interact with. To illustrate the complexity, if you search “lymph node microenvironment” in a scientific database, you get a list of more than 1,300 journal articles.

Now, it’s not that Genentech's new video game, "The Lymph Node Labyrinth," distills down all of that science to serve it up in one sitting, but you do have to start somewhere.

And the folks at Genentech know this already. How so? Genentech previously launched a game called "T Cells Attack," which deals with cancer immunology, a topic with more than 250,000 hits in that same database.

Both games are free and you don’t have to know anything about either game to start playing the other one. That said, if your curiosity takes you from one game to the next, you won't be disappointed. The different worlds are related and playing both games actually gives you a fuller picture of how the immune system fights cancer.

Playing the Game

In a world where danger is your middle name and threat-recognition can be life-saving, you are a Dendritic Cell.

  • A dendritic cell is an "immune system scout." It’s a special kind of immune cell.
  • As a group, dendritic cells come in different varieties, have different backgrounds, and they even hang out in different "neighborhoods" of the body. They generally have a cool shape with numerous branching processes.

    Remember your way through the Lymph Node Labyrinth to activate T cells and get them to the bloodstream. Activated T cells help fight cancer, but only once armed with the following crucial information you offer them as a dendritic cell:

    • Cancer cells release proteins called antigens that mark them as dangerous.
    • You and other dendritic cells capture these antigens and present them to T cells, the “soldiers” of the immune system. Once these T cells become activated by antigens, they leave the lymph nodes, enter the bloodstream, and begin their journey to find and destroy cancer cells.
    • Where does this strategic hand-off of intelligence occur? In the lymph nodes, of course. In real life, each lymph node is a complex maze of pathways, immune cells, and more—each with its own entryway and an exit.
    • And T cells aren't the only cancer-killing agents of the immune system. Sometimes they all gang up to take on cancer cells.

    If using a smartphone or tablet, tap in the hallway just ahead of your cell, in the direction you want to go in. Type up, left, down, right or mouse-click your way forward if using a keyboard or desktop.

    Pick up the compass for a bird’s eye view of the maze and try to remember a workable path. Don’t have a photographic memory? There will be other compasses along the way so don’t panic. You need to choose a path that will get you to the T cell before you get to an exit. Find the shortest path and do it all as fast as you can.

    The game has been optimized for recent Macs, PCs using Chrome, IE10, Firefox, Safari, iPhone 6, and recent iPads.

    Older devices may encounter performance issues.

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