Video games lead to new paths to treat cancer, other diseases
The cure for cancer comes down to this: video games. In a research lab at Wake Forest University, biophysicist and computer scientist Samuel Cho uses graphics processing units (GPUs), the technology that makes videogame images so realistic, to simulate the inner workings of human cells.
"If it wasn't for gamers who kept buying these GPUs, the prices wouldn't have dropped, and we couldn't have used them for science," Cho says.
Now he can see exactly how the cells live, divide and die.
And that, Cho says, opens up possibilities for new targets for tumor-killing drugs.
Cho's most recent computer simulation, of a critical RNA molecule that is a component of the human telomerase enzyme, for the first time shows hidden states in the folding and unfolding of this molecule, giving scientists a far more accurate view of how it functions. The results of his research appear in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Cho worked with colleagues from the University of Maryland and Zhejiang University in China for this study.
The human telomerase enzyme is found only in cancerous cells. It adds tiny molecules called telomeres to the ends of DNA strands when cells divide -- essentially preventing cells from dying.
"The cell keeps reproducing over and over, and that's the very definition of cancer," Cho says. "By knowing how telomerase folds and functions, we provide a new area for researching cancer treatments."
A new drug would stop the human telomerase enzyme from adding onto the DNA, so the tumor cell dies.
Cho, an assistant professor of physics and computer science, has turned his attention to videogaming technology and the bacterial ribosome -- a molecular system 200 times larger than the human telomerase enzyme RNA molecule. His research group has begun to use graphics cards called GPUs to perform these cell simulations, which is much faster than using standard computing.
"We have hijacked this technology to perform simulations very, very quickly on much larger biomolecular systems," Cho says.
Without the GPUs, Cho estimated it would have taken him more than 40 years to program that simulation.
Now, it will take him a few months.
Source: Wake Forest University
- Video games lead to new paths to treat cancer, other diseasesfrom Science DailyThu, 16 Feb 2012, 11:30:52 EST
- Video Games Lead to New Paths to Treat Cancer, Other Diseasesfrom Newswise - ScinewsThu, 16 Feb 2012, 11:01:30 EST
- Cancer cure may owe thanks to gamersfrom Science BlogThu, 16 Feb 2012, 9:02:43 EST
- Smashing stereotypes around women and gamingfrom CBC: Technology & ScienceThu, 16 Feb 2012, 6:30:25 EST
- Video games lead to new paths to treat cancer, other diseasesfrom PhysorgThu, 16 Feb 2012, 5:00:46 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Declining catch rates in Caribbean green turtle fishery may be result of overfishing
- New MRSA superbug emerges in Brazil
- Surprising material could play role in saving energy
- In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises
- More research called for into HIV and schistosomiasis coinfection in African children
- Warming climate has consequences for Michigan's forests
- Hepatitis C treatment cures over 90 percent of patients with cirrhosis
- Berkeley graduate student brings extinct plants to life
- Appearance of night-shining clouds has increased
- Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain, success of US Clean Air Act
- Criticism of violent video games has decreased as technology has improved, gamers age
- Hummingbirds' 22-million-year-old history of remarkable change is far from complete
- Ancient 'spider' images reveal eye-opening secrets
- New research finds 'geologic clock' that helps determine moon's age
- Research clarifies health costs of air pollution from agriculture