Video Gaming Technology - a "Beast" Against Cancer

Cancer cell life cycles revealed with video gaming graphics cards

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(RxWiki News) Ever wondered how video games can make stuff look so real? They use high-speed computer technology called graphics processing units (GPUs). And one scientist thinks this technology could be [a] "beast" (gaming lingo for "awesome") against cancer.

Samual Cho, Ph.D., a Wake Forest University biophysicist and computer scientist, is using GPUs to simulate the inner world of human cells. He hopes this new view can help improve cancer treatments.

"Ask your doctor which cancers you should be getting screened for."

Cho is visualizing how cells live, divide and die. This simulation, made possible with video gaming technology, could help develop new targets for cancer drugs.

His latest work shows the hidden behavior of a key RNA molecule of what's known as the human telomerase enzyme, which is found only in cancer cells. 

This enzyme throws a monkey wrench into the cell life cycle, essentially preventing cells from dying.

“The cell keeps reproducing over and over, and that’s the very definition of cancer,” Cho says. “By knowing how telomerase folds and functions, we provide a new area for researching cancer treatments.”

This means a drug could be developed to stop the human telomerase enzyme, so tumor cells die.

And that would be "sick," (awesome) as gamers say.

Cho began using GPUs in his lab because they are much faster than standard computing systems, and because in recent years the prices have become very reasonable.

“We have hijacked this technology to perform simulations very, very quickly on much larger biomolecular systems,” Cho says.

He and his assistants are currently looking at a large and intricate system known as the bacterial ribosome. Without the GPU technology, these simulations would have taken him a mere 40 years or so to program.

Today, with the help of GPUs, the simulations will only take a few months.

This research appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Cho worked with colleagues from the University of Maryland and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China

No information was provided regarding funding for this resesarch, nor were any financial relationships disclosed.

Last Updated:
February 20, 2012