Our smartphones can do just about anything these days, from helping us track our calories burned throughout a workout to serving us up our daily helping of news and social media. They even play games, stream music and videos, and we can take pictures with them too. If someone told me a few a years ago however that our smartphones could aid in the effort to research cures for diseases, I probably would have been skeptical at first. That is exactly what Sony and [email protected](a research project aimed at finding cures fir Alzheimer’s and other diseases)are attempting to do with a new beta application for [email protected] though.
The [email protected] lab which is headed up by Dr. Vijay Pande of Stanford University, was faced with the task of finding a solution to observing the folding of proteins that make up nearly every aspect of our bodies, so that they might be able to further study diseases and how and why they occur. This breaks down to the folding process of those proteins inside of our bodies. When the proteins fold with an error, this is where diseases begin to surface. The folding process happens at such a rapid rate that it becomes extremely difficult to observe in a lab environment though. It would require the processing power of a huge Super Computer, which would take tons of time and money to build, only to lead to a process of even longer hours for studying the folding of each individual protein. Instead of spending precious time on building a massive machine to compute all this data, Vijay’s team developed an app to harness the power of the vast network of the tiny computers we hold in our hands, pockets, purses and bags every single day. Our smartphones.
The process for capturing all this data via the smartphone app would still take a pretty long time, as Vijay explains that it would take on smartphone running this process 24/7 for 150,000 days, or as Vijay refers to it, it would take their team 150,000 “phone days” to be able to gather enough data to represent a significant leap forward in this research. This is where the app comes in, as the time becomes significantly reduced if this process of computing the data for researching protein folding is spread out among a larger number of handsets. Taking the 150,000 phone days and splitting them up across a 10,000 device strong network and the time for computing the data needed becomes a mere two week period. You can grab the beta version of the application from the Play Store and help contribute to this research if you’re running any of the Xperia Z series devices, as well as the Xperia T3, Xperia T2 Ultra, Xperia M2 Aqua, and Xperia C3 model smartphones from Sony.