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  • - When you think of a super computer,

  • you probably picture a bunch of server racks,

  • covered in blinking lights in a lab somewhere.

  • But did you know that you easily make

  • your home PC part of a super computer, for free

  • and for a good cause.

  • The subject of today's video

  • is a project called Folding@home

  • and no, we're not talking about laundry.

  • Folding@home started at Stanford University

  • but is now run from multiple sites around the world

  • and the goal is to research protein folding.

  • But how does it do this home computers

  • and what the heck is protein folding anyway?

  • Well, stay with me here

  • because protein isn't just the stuff

  • that weightlifters drink by the bucket full.

  • Your body uses all sorts of different proteins

  • for everything from building muscle fibers

  • to intercellular signaling and the crucial thing

  • to remember about proteins is that their function

  • depends heavily on their shape,

  • which is where the term 'folding' comes in.

  • After a protein is assembled it has to fold

  • into its proper shape to be useful,

  • kinda like how you can't throw

  • a piece of paper across the room

  • until it's in the correct shape.

  • I choose ball.

  • But unlike a paper airplane,

  • which you can just follow simple instructions for,

  • protein folding is much more complicated.

  • You see, proteins are made up of 20 different

  • kinds of small units, called amino acids

  • and while they're structurally similar,

  • all 20 of them have different side chains that,

  • as the name implies, stick of to the side of the molecule.

  • When you connect a bunch of amino acids together,

  • linearly to form a protein, these side chains interact

  • with each other in ways that cause a protein to fold,

  • depending on how their shaped

  • and their electrical properties as well.

  • As you can imagine, the more amino acids,

  • the more complicated these interactions become

  • and the typical protein might be hundreds

  • of amino acid residues long.

  • And of course, it's critical for a protein to end up

  • in the correct shape or conformation

  • because otherwise it couldn't function.

  • For example, cells have proteins on their surfaces

  • that serve as signaling receptors

  • and they only function because they are shaped

  • in a certain way that allows them to bind

  • with this signaling molecules

  • or other proteins from outside the cell,

  • kind of like two puzzle pieces coming together.

  • The TLDR is that understanding how proteins fold

  • has very important implications in medicine.

  • For example, understanding how viral proteins interact

  • with cell membranes to invade cells

  • is critical to finding treatments to some viral diseases.

  • So the team behind the project

  • is currently using Folding@home to research

  • the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

  • The better we can understand what parts of the virus

  • especially the ones that bind to human cells,

  • could be attacked with the drugs,

  • the more likely it is that we can develop medicines

  • that can treat or cure the disease.

  • But anyways, this is tech quickie not biology quickie

  • so let's tie this all back to the Folding@home project.

  • It turns out that simulating protein folding patterns

  • is very difficult to computationally.

  • In nature, proteins fold in a tiny fraction of a second

  • but it can take years of computer time to sort out

  • exactly how a protein will fold,

  • given a certain amino acid sequence

  • and a big part of the problem

  • is that we don't yet fully understand

  • the mechanisms behind protein folding.

  • So the idea behind Folding@home,

  • is to leverage spare home computing power

  • in order to solve these difficult problems.

  • All you need to do to participate like I am,

  • is install a client onto you home PC

  • from the Folding@home website.

  • The program will then give your system

  • part of a folding simulation to run

  • and then send back to the program servers.

  • You can specify how much of your PC spare computer muscle

  • to use, depending on how much you want it to affect

  • your power bill and you can also choose whether

  • to run the simulations only when the system is idle

  • or also when you're actively using them

  • or maybe you choose depending on how hot

  • your house is already.

  • If you have a high-end graphics card,

  • you're gonna help even more.

  • The highly parallel nature of GPU architecture,

  • which you can learn more about up here,

  • can really speed up simulations

  • but you also don't need super fancy hardware.

  • The current version of the client support CPUs

  • all the way back to Pentium four.

  • Now, it might seem like the impact one system makes

  • on the project is minuscule,

  • but all that spare computing power really adds up

  • and taking collectively the Folding@home network

  • is up there with the world's top super computers.

  • This has enabled real scientific breakthroughs

  • that would've been much harder to reach otherwise.

  • Hundreds of scientific papers have been published

  • from the project's findings and have also been useful

  • for those involved in drug discovery.

  • So, if you can spare a bit of power,

  • download the Folding@home app today.

  • Join the LTD Folding team and make a difference,

  • your PC might even wind up finding

  • a cure for the coronavirus,

  • which could not only safe lives

  • but also finally put an end to all

  • these people hoarding toilet paper.

  • What's up with that anyway?

  • Geez, it doesn't make you poo more, you poo the same amount.

  • Anyway, this video is brought to by FreshBooks.

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  • So thanks for watching guys,

  • if you liked this video, give it a thumbs up,

  • get subscribed and hit us up in the comment section

  • with your suggestions for topics

  • that we should cover in the future.

- When you think of a super computer,

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B1 US folding protein amino home fold signaling

FIGHT Coronavirus From Home! - [email protected]

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    ally.chang posted on 2020/04/16
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