MolgenVR (short for ‘molecular genetics VR’) is a virtual reality environment that transports students into a virtual E. coli bacterium to explore gene regulation. The cluster of genes at the center of the simulation is known as the lac operon, which allows the bacteria to use lactose as an energy source.
Developed with Unity 3D for the HTC Vive, students complete lac operon gene sequence by throwing (equivalent to “dragging-and-dropping”) genes in the DNA strand. They make copies of the genes (i.e., mRNA) and translate them into proteins. Students identify regulatory molecules (e.g., lac repressor) and their function, and make predictions about the efficacy of the system under various conditions (e.g., high glucose levels).