21 November 2012

Simulations for Cancer Prevention

Carcinogens seem to be everywhere, from automobile exhaust to secondhand smoke. With cancer the second leading cause of death in the US, research into various carcinogens may be the first step in preventing cancer from developing. Now, with the help of researchers at NYU, HPC may give us the necessary tools to curb cancer development. High performance computing resources help researchers model those airborne cancerous chemicals, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), and their effect on DNA strands in human cells.

Carcinogens, or chemicals that manipulate the DNA of cells in such a way that the cells replicate uncontrollably leading to tumors, can be broken into two categories. Some of these chemicals destabilize the actual DNA strands, making them easier to defend against. Others, however, actually create stronger bonds between the strands than there exists between normal DNA, making them particularly effective at propagating themselves. Modeling complex forces and interactions is no small feat, as it was necessary to garner the coordinates of the structures over a period of time.

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