Folding At Home FAQ

Folding At Home FAQ

*What is distributed computing?

Distributed computing is a method of splitting a computing project among several different computers, as to finish the project’s task more quickly and efficiently. Using the internet to distribute the task, Stanford uses a type of distributed computing to work on the Folding at Home project.

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*What are proteins?

Proteins are, to take a quote from the Stanford website: “…biology’s workhorses — its ‘nanomachines.'” Simply put, proteins work to control functions in the body. They are composed of long sequences of amino acids that are synthesized from data encoded in genes. Once a protein is synthesized, it folds itself to become its final shape. At this point, problems can occur in the folding process, which will yield misfolded proteins. Misfolded proteins are a cause of some diseases.

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*What are proteins made of?

Proteins are made of even smaller building blocks called Amino Acids. Amino acid molecules are used by the body to synthesize proteins in a process called translation. Translation involves the construction of proteins from a template that is stored in the body’s DNA. There are 20 amino acids used and required in the human body.

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*Why do proteins fold?

When a protein is first constructed, it will be in a non-useful state. To reach a useful state, it must first be in the correct shape. Protein folding is this process.

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*What causes proteins to fold?

The Amino Acids that compose proteins are actually tiny charged molecules. Each of the 20 different Amino Acids has a different structure and charge. It is the interaction of these charges with the environment, such as a salt-based solution like that in a cell, which causes the protein to ‘fold’ upon itself. Hydrophobic (fatty) portions of the protein are sequestered to the center of the protein and the hydrophilic charged parts of the protein are exposed to the salt-water environment.

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*What is protein misfolding?

The protein folding process is very complex, involving hundreds, if not thousands of steps to reach its final shape. Because it is so complex, a great many things can happen during the folding process. When this happens, the protein can misfold, and the final shape will be incorrect, which can cause problems.

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*What happens when proteins misfold?

In a misfolded protein, the shape of the protein is wrong compared to what it should be in its final state. Because it is wrong, the misfolded protein can cause strange interactions in the body, therefore disturbing the body’s natural processes. This can lead to many diseases including: Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow disease, CJD, ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many types of Cancer.

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*Why those diseases?

These diseases are all based off of a genetic mutation that in turn causes a problem with protein folding. Without properly formed proteins, the body is at risk to develop these diseases.

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*How can Folding at home help to cure these diseases?

The folding at home project is a project to adequately model the folding of proteins into their final shape. By learning how they fold and misfold, the scientists using the finished data can more precisely pinpoint the best way to combat these diseases. The Folding at home project has already made huge progress, but the bulk of the results are yet to come.

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*What is a client?

A client is a program that is installed on a PC, Mac or Playstation 3 that is used by Stanford University for the Folding at Home project. When installed properly, it will non-intrusively use the extra computing power that the computer possesses for the benefit of science. Through a system of “work units” (or WUs), the client will download, compute, and return the finished data to Stanford.

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*What is the client going to do to my PC?

The client will use the spare computing cycles that would normally be wasted. When downloading new work units or uploading finished work units, the client will use some internet bandwidth as well. Also, the client will use a bit of system RAM also.

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*But won’t that slow down the PC?

On a modern PC, the average user rarely, if ever, uses the full potential of their powerful PC. Because the client will only use the spare computing cycles, the client should not slow down any running applications. The client runs at the lowest “priority” level on the computer, so when any other programs are running they get access to any resources they need first. The client just makes do with whatever computer cycles are left over.

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*Will this damage my hardware somehow?

It is very unlikely that the folding at home project could ever damage your computer, computer components, or video game console. Modern day hardware is built to high tolerances, that is, it is very resilient. As long as the hardware is properly cooled and kept dust free, the folding at home project will not be harmful to the hardware.

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*I’m having trouble getting this set up, where can I go for help?

First, you should visit this page to learn how to set it up: (F@H guides page LINKAGE). If you have completed the troubleshooting steps on that page and are still having problems, we welcome you to set up an XCPUs forum account here. (LINKAGE, use the word here as the link) We will be glad to help you out in any way we can.

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FOLD ON!