Protein Researchers Want Mac OS X Users

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Date: Wednesday, April 17th, 2002, 00:00
Category: Archive

To better understand how proteins fold in the hopes of discovering possible cures for illnesses, Stanford University’s Pande Group is asking for help from Mac users willing to put their idle computers to work running Folding@home, a massively distributed simulation of how proteins assemble themselves.

As the workhorses of the biological world, proteins can act as enzymes that drive biochemical reactions or antibodies that fight unwanted invaders. What mystifies researchers is how proteins carry out their work. One thing scientists do know: proteins self-assemble into particular shapes or “folds,” transforming themselves on the fly to accomplish an amazing array of tasks. Scientists also know that when proteins don’t fold properly the result can be diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, Mad Cow disease, and even many cancers.

”Creating Mac OS X versions of our existing UNIX-based client and server software was painless and fast — a matter of a few days,” says Dr. Pande. “It was a relatively small investment in time, and we hope to get a substantial payback in return.”

Dr. Pande believes that he can attract thousands or even tens of thousands of Macintosh users connected to the Internet to run the Folding@home software. “Many Mac enthusiasts are scientists who are likely to be interested in what we’re doing,” he says.

Dr. Pande’s ultimate goal is to understand how proteins assemble themselves and what their final structure is. This is something that is difficult if not impossible to determine from experiments alone, because folding happens at an extremely rapid pace, often in a matter of microseconds. Each step of the folding process is enormously complex, and a single computer — even the world’s fastest supercomputer — can’t calculate all of the variables fast enough.

The PowerPage is proud to support the Folding@home initiative and invites you to join our team. Simply download the client software then enter team number 3072 when you run the client for the first time.

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