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Game Consoles To Power Cancer, Alzheimer's Research

Researchers at Stanford University plan to use the cell processor power of PlayStation 3 to perform calculations for the Folding@Home project, which simulates protein behavior to give scientists clues about the disease process.

Researchers at Stanford University have a new use for the Sony Playstation: cancer, Alzheimer's Disease and other illnesses.

They plan to use the cell processor power of Playstation3 to perform calculations for the Folding@Home project, which simulates protein behavior to give scientists clues about the disease process. The molecular simulation project allows researchers to study Alzheimer's Disease, Huntington's Disease and some cancers.

Sony demonstrated their Folding@Home client for the PS3 in Germany last week. Researchers described the development as a major advance in capabilities that were once possible only with supercomputers. While the cell microprocessor helps perform calculations to simulate protein folding, the graphic chip of the Playstation 3 system will show the protein folding process in real-time, using new image technologies, according to researchers.

"With this new technology, as well as new advances with GPUs, we will likely be able to attain performance on the 100 gigaflop scale per computer," folding project team members announced on their Web site. "With about 10,000 such machines, we would be able to achieve performance on the petaflop scale."

Researchers said the PS3 client and GPU will help push calculations to the 10 petaflop scale, which would mean the project will outperform the fastest supercomputers. They said they are testing the ATI GPU client software and plan to announce an open beta by the end of September.

Videos of the simulation are also available for viewing on the project's Web site.

The Folding@Home project began in 2000 and is backed by several private and public groups. It is one of several projects that link extra computing power from hundreds of thousands of PCs to create networks as strong as supercomputers to perform scientific calculations. IBM's World Community Grid is currently powering AIDS research.

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