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Idle computers offer hope to solve cancer's mysteries through grid computing project
Date:6/23/2008

AUSTIN, Texas A biomedical engineering professor at The University of Texas at Austin is using a concept called "grid computing" to allow the average person to donate idle computer time in a global effort to fight cancer.

Muhammad Zaman, assistant professor in biomedical engineering, recently introduced Cellular Environment in Living Systems @Home or CELS@Home for short (http://cels-at-home-dev.dyndns.org/cels/). The program already has more than 1,000 computer users worldwide contributing to the project. And the numbers keep growing.

The idea is based on what is called grid computing. Instead of using local computing resources, which are almost always limited, grid computing allows Internet users worldwide to contribute their idle computer time, creating a "virtual" supercomputer to solve a difficult problem. In this case, the grid computing program is calculating cellular interactions in different environments to help understand the principles of cell migration and cancer cell metastasis, or the spread of cancer from the original tumor to other parts of the body.

"We have launched a global effort to recreate the in vivo (live) environment of cancer cells in a computer model. This allows us to perform virtual experiments and study processes that are too costly or technically very difficult to study," says Zaman, who also directs the Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Dynamics. "By recreating this whole 'system of processes inside a cancer cell' we will be in a position to fully comprehend the problem and hopefully identify targets that will one day translate into anti-cancer drugs."

He says only a background program (or screensaver) needs to be downloadedat no cost to the userto contribute to the CELS@Home effort. A computational program then runs whenever the screensaver is activated, requiring no effort on the part of the user to run the program or report the compu
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Contact: Muhammad Zaman
mhzaman@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-4205
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert

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