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Mass number-crunching may help crack Alzheimer's disease code
Date:5/9/2014

By lending a little computer power, people can join a new George Mason University project and help crack the Alzheimer's disease code.

George Mason is teaming with Reston-based Parabon Computation to ask volunteers to install software on their personal computers that will crunch numbers when the computer isn't in use. Notable projects from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, such as Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, have used similar approaches.

"It's a way to involve people in real research," says Dmitri Klimov, associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology in the School of Systems Biology, who is leading Mason's efforts on the project.

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease for which there is no cure. Dementia its hallmark robs people of their memories and who they are. More than 5 million Americans have the disease; it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is expected to account for $214 billion in health care spending this year, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Researchers are working on finding elusive answers. "Despite all the efforts, we still don't know how the disease develops on a molecular level," Klimov says. "Exactly what causes Alzheimer's is not known."

Klimov has a $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to work on the problem. Researchers have identified Ab protein, which appears to have a key role, but exactly how the protein plays out in the process is speculation at this point, he says.

This protein is just fine on its own and belongs in the brain, but trouble seems to occur when these protein molecules group together in a ball called an oligomer, Klimov explains, and it's this possibly destructive grouping that needs a closer look.

Citizen scientists can help researchers find the answer by joining the Compute Against Alzheimer's Disease (CAAD) project.

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Contact: Michele McDonald
mmcdon15@gmu.edu
703-993-8781
George Mason University
Source:Eurekalert

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