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Video Game Technology Advances Cancer Research

A new trend in scientific research is to use videogame technology to simulate human tissue.

Wake Forest University researchers are using graphics processing units (GPUs), the technology that makes videogame images so realistic, to simulate the inner workings of human cells.

Dr. Samuel Cho, a biophysicist and computer scientist, said the popularity of video games has also been a godsend in helping to drop the price of the GPUs so that they can now be used for research.

Furthermore, the technology now allows Cho to see exactly how the cells live, divide and die. And that, he said, opens up possibilities for new targets for tumor-killing drugs.

Cho’s most recent computer simulation, of a critical RNA molecule that is a component of the human telomerase enzyme, illuminates previously unknown hidden states in the folding and unfolding of this molecule.

The results of his research appear in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The human telomerase enzyme is found only in cancerous cells. It adds tiny molecules called telomeres to the ends of DNA strands when cells divide — essentially preventing cells from dying.

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

The visual representation gives scientists a far more accurate view of how the molecule functions. This, in turn, can allow the development of new medications that can block the action of the enzyme and potentially stop the growth of cancerous cells.

Specifically, a new drug would stop the human telomerase enzyme from adding onto the DNA, so the tumor cell dies.

Cho is currently exploring the use of videogaming technology to investigate bacterial ribosome — a molecular system 200 times larger than the human telomerase enzyme RNA molecule.

His research group has begun to use graphics cards called GPUs to perform these cell simulations, which is much faster than using standard computing.

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

Without the GPUs, Cho estimated it would have taken him more than 40 years to program that simulation. Amazingly, use of the technology will allow the research to be performed in only a few months.

Source: Wake Forest University

Video Game Technology Advances Cancer Research

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Video Game Technology Advances Cancer Research. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Feb 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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