Monday, April 30, 2007

Folding@home Capacity Doubled by PS3

Finally getting some value out of all those game consoles...

Extra computing power from idle PS3s has helped the capacity of Stanford University's Folding@home project double in the last month.

The project, which aims to further the understanding of how proteins fold in order to limit the development of a number of diseases, was given a boost by the dramatically improved processing power acquired following a system software update made available to PS3 owners last month.

Mass uptake of an application within the update has enabled researchers to utilize the processing power of hundreds of thousands of dormant PlayStation 3 consoles.

“The PS3 turnout has been amazing, greatly exceeding our expectations and allowing us to push our work dramatically forward,” said Vijay Pande, associate professor of chemistry at Stanford University and Folding@home program lead.

“Thanks to PS3, we have performed simulations in the first few weeks that would normally take us more than a year to calculate. We are now gearing up for new simulations that will continue our current studies of Alzheimer’s and other diseases,” he added.

link to full article

Monday, April 16, 2007

Stem cell study zeroes in on ALS cause


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cells that are supposed to nourish and support other nerve cells instead secrete the poisons that cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, researchers reported on Sunday.

Two reports published in the journal Nature Neuroscience may show new ways to treat the degenerative nerve disease, which slowly paralyzes its victims until they die.

Both teams showed that the nerve cells called astrocytes, which support and feed neurons, turn toxic when they carry a mutated gene called SOD1, which has been linked with ALS in the past.

Dr. Serge Przedborski of Columbia University in New York and colleagues created mouse motor neuron cells that carried mutated versions of the human superoxide dismutase-1, or SOD1, gene. But these mutated cells did not cause the damage typically seen in ALS when grown in lab dishes of cells.

Then they created astrocytes carrying the mutated human SOD1 gene. Astrocytes are one of the types of glial cells -- support cells in the brain and nervous system that secrete various compounds that nourish neurons.

When SOD1 is mutated in these glial cells, Przedborski and colleagues found, one of the nourishing proteins apparently turns toxic. When they grew astrocytes with mutated SOD1, they killed the neighboring mouse motor neuron cells.

"It was previously thought that astrocytes were merely spectators watching their neighboring motor neurons die," said Przedborski. "With these results, we have learned they are not just spectators, they are major players."

link to full article

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stem Cell Bill Approved by Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A stubborn Senate voted Wednesday to ease restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, ignoring President Bush's threat of a second veto on legislation designed to lead to new medical treatments.

The 63-34 vote was shy of the margin that would be needed to enact the measure over presidential opposition, despite gains made by supporters in last fall's elections.

"Not every day do we have the opportunity to vote to heal the sick," said Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a senator less than 100 days following a tough 2006 campaign in which the stem cell controversy played a particularly prominent role. "It is a noble cause," she added.

link to full AP article