A virtual supercomputer running on more than 239,000 computers around the world has successfully eavesdropped on a protein key to cancer’s progression in the body.
Researchers using Stanford University’s Folding@home, a distributed computational platform, have been able to describe the activation of a protein called Src kinase, a molecular switch that is believed to turn on the tumor-producing signals in cells that tell them to grow, spread and not self-destruct.
The team says it is the first time the protein has been modeled as it changes from an inactive state to an active one. Their insight could help develop new drugs that specifically target Src kinase.
(The gif above illustrates Folding@home’s simulated protein-folding steps from an uncoiled configuration to a complex, 3-D structure. The protein here is NTL9 and unrelated to Src kinase, the subject of this article. See the interesting video below. Courtesy Vijay Pande/Stanford.)
Brains are the most powerful computers known. Now microchips built to mimic insects’ nervous systems have been shown to successfully tackle technical computing problems like object recognition and data mining, researchers say.
Attempts to recreate how the brain works are nothing new. Computing principles underlying how the organ operates have inspired computer programs known as neural networks, which have been used for decades to analyze data. The artificial neurons that make up these programs imitate the brain’s neurons, with each one capable of sending, receiving and processing information.
However, real biological neural networks rely on electrical impulses known as spikes. Simulating networks of spiking neurons with software is computationally intensive, setting limits on how long these simulations can run and how large they can get.