Space MMO EVE Online is getting a minigame that turns it into a bona fide biological research tool, says developer CCP.

Dubbed "Project Discovery," the mini-game asks players to identify patterns in fluorescent microscopic images of human cells.

It appears as an icon in the main Neocom UI, and involves matching images to a range of categories - a task simple for humans but still somewhat difficult for automated systems.

At first, players work with samples that have already been classified, in order to assign an accuracy rating.

Players with sufficiently high accuracy will then be given new, unclassified samples, and their answers will be compared with those of other EVE players to establish a concensus.

The goal of the project is to "help scientists understand protein function in cells" and to help build a catalogue of proteins in humans.

It is being undertaken alongside The Human Protein Atlas, with help from Massively Multiplayer Online Science and the University of Reykjavik.

For players, engaging with Project Discovery can net in-game currency, experience points, and badges.

Project Discovery is in the latest update to EVE Online, available now for Windows, Linux, and Mac.