goal: to understand protein folding, misfolding, and related diseases
Proteins are the machinery of life. They are responsible for the structure and processes we see in living organisms. They are continually produced within cells, different cell types making different sets of proteins. The genetic code (DNA) stores gene patterns as sequences of base pairs. Genes are expressed (proteins created) when RNA carries these patterns to ribosomes which then read the sequence of bases three at a time. These triplets (codons) are translated into amino acids to assemble a protein. Each long one-dimensional molecule folds into a
3-D shape under local molecular and atomic chemistry rules. This
3-D shape actually determines much of the functionality of a protein. Rarely, this folding process goes wrong (alternate
3-D configurations occur), causing disorders in the organism such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many cancer-related syndromes.
Understanding this protein folding process benefits from massive computing power. Folding@home was established to draw upon the considerable resources of distributed computers worldwide. The ‘client’ is a small piece of software that usually runs in the background on your computer. Participation in this effort by the general public is free, easy to do, and strongly encouraged.