Yes, you read it right: the same dust collector you use to watch kitten videos can help scientists around the world to execute complex calculations in order to understand how proteins fold (which is essential to understanding cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and many other Grim Reapers!).
At this rate, we might be able to defeat cancer within 15 years – but if we all join forces, we may do it much faster, in a couple of years!
You are not doing anything – you just start the app and your computer does all the work.
If your computer is slow, I would recommend folding directly in your browser because work units are smaller and you can finish them on time (you are given 3 days deadline for one work unit. If your computer can’t handle it, that work unit is passed to another machine on the network since I guess the timing must be right). Same goes for computers you don’t have administrator’s access to. Native browser folding has been ,unfortunately, shut down. You will have to download and install an app on your computer in order to fold.
- Windows user should download this app, while Linux and MacOS users should find their downloads here.
If this doesn’t motivate you enough to start folding app on your computer or phone, there is also a reward! CureCoin and FoldingCoin are cryptocurrencies which reward protein folders with coins that have real value on the market, and will probably grow even more.
On top of all of that, you can add a Folding at Home certificate on your resume since it is, in a way, a volunteering activity.
Stanford launched protein folding project some 18 years ago, and it was done on CPU at that point. A major upgrade to CPU simulation is GPU simulation, which was until recently used to mine Bitcoin. You can still help scientists with simulations on CPU, but GPU is more effective.
If you have any GPU (old one like my ATI Radeon 5770 is more than enough to make a difference!), that’s a plus!
I will make detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to setup your computer to earn CureCoin while folding very soon!
I won’t be going in too much details on how scientists are using data your computer processes, I will just copy a few paragraph from Folding@Home’s website:
WHAT IS PROTEIN FOLDING AND HOW IS IT RELATED TO DISEASE?
Proteins are necklaces of amino acids, long chain molecules. They are the basis of how biology gets things done. As enzymes, they are the driving force behind all of the biochemical reactions that make biology work. As structural elements, they are the main constituent of our bones, muscles, hair, skin and blood vessels. As antibodies, they recognize invading elements and allow the immune system to get rid of the unwanted invaders. For these reasons, scientists have sequenced the human genome – the blueprint for all of the proteins in biology – but how can we understand what these proteins do and how they work?
However, only knowing this sequence tells us little about what the protein does and how it does it. In order to carry out their function (e.g. as enzymes or antibodies), they must take on a particular shape, also known as a “fold.” Thus, proteins are truly amazing machines: before they do their work, they assemble themselves! This self-assembly is called “folding.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF PROTEINS DON’T FOLD CORRECTLY?
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, BSE (Mad Cow disease), an inherited form of emphysema, and even many cancers are believed to result from protein misfolding. When proteins misfold, they can clump together (“aggregate”). These clumps can often gather in the brain, where they are believed to cause the symptoms of Mad Cow or Alzheimer’s disease.
The Folding@home software runs while you do other things.
While you keep going with your everyday activities, your computer or phone will be working to help scientists find cures for diseases like cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Influenza and many others.
If you want to help this blog running, you can buy us a coffee with crypto: ETH 0x1cbEbF73596d17DBef7061f45837545Ca1AE93bC