Video Games & Biology

  by  |  October 24th, 2008  |  Published in All, Featured, Technology

 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 

Video games aren’t just for kids. Researchers are now using the same technology that runs your games to create realistic simulations of biological systems. As this ScienCentral News video reports, the new approach could speed up research into diseases and drug therapies.

[If you cannot see the flash video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

Produced by Chris Bergendorff
Edited by James Eagan
Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc.

Gaming the System

These days, video games are everywhere, from games that keep you fit to games that teach you to perform surgery. Video games have even invaded the realm of science, like in the recent hit computer game "SPORE," which lets players guide the course of evolution from single cell to galactic empire. But this isn’t just a one-way street. In turn, researchers at Michigan Technological University have found a way to use the computer graphic cards that power video games for biological research.

“You can use the graphic cards that were originally built for playing video games,” says Roshan D’Souza , a mechanical engineer at Michigan Tech, “and turn them around, and turn them into supercomputing devices to solve scientific problems.”

Also on ScienCentral

D’Souza originally began using these graphic cards to solve engineering problems. Often, after constructing the components of a device or machine, engineers discover that the pieces don’t work smoothly together, due to a problem with the original design. Much time and effort is wasted before an engineer can redesign and rebuild these parts. D’Souza found he could model the structure of components on a computer before building them, so as to get a sense of how they would fit together when finally assembled.

After using these powerful graphic cards, called graphics processing units, or “GPU’s”, for work in his own field, D’Souza realized this powerful technology might also benefit other areas of science. He asked his students to help him think of other applications for these GPU’s.

As D’Souza describes, "We came upon a paper in Computational Biology, that talked about bacterial colonies, and modeling bacterial colonies using agent based models."

Agent Based Modeling

Agent based modeling is a kind of computer modeling that seeks to replicate the behavior of large groups of independent ‘agents’ in a network or system. Some examples of systems that include lots of autonomous agents include cars in traffic, the path of infections in epidemics, even the behavior of consumers shopping for goods. The problem with agent based models is that they require a huge amount of processing power to simulate the behavior of all of the hundreds, thousands, or even millions of individual agents– power that normally isn’t possible on a typical home or office computer.

Enter GPU’s. These game processors are already powerful enough to model the behaviors of lots of individual characters in a computer game. If it works for agents in a game, D’Souza and his students reasoned that it should work for agents in real life systems as well.

So D’Souza and his students tried simulating a particularly complex biological system, in this case the behavior of a bacterial colony. After a few months of fine-tuning the programming, they created a simulation that seemed to be not only accurate, but also incredibly fast. When they compared their work with what other researchers around the world had accomplished, they found that the GPU’s were outstripping the competition.

As D’Souza puts it, “We found that we were nearly three orders of magnitude faster than any system that is out there.”

Faster, Stronger, Better

D’Souza and his team then demonstrated their work at the 2007 Agent Conference. There they showed that complex biological systems, like a tuberculosis infection, could be modeled on a simple personal computer, at a speed approaching that of multi-million dollar supercomputers. Such supercomputers can only be found in select research centers around the country, and access to them is very limited. By making use of these video game processors, researchers can run simulated experiments over and over again on their own office computer, in a fraction of the time it takes today.

"Something that takes maybe a month to compute on a traditional computing system, just divide that by a thousand," says D’Souza.

D’Souza says the simulations could also speed up the process of drug discovery. Pharmaceutical companies often have to waste effort and time on expensive clinical trials to test drugs that will ultimately not work for any number of reasons. But, with the use of GPU’s, the effects of different drugs can be simulated on a computer at less cost and greater speed. Instead of searching for the right drug among hundreds or thousands of the wrong ones, researchers can narrow down their search to just those drugs that work in the simulations.

"Once you narrow down your search space, then you can do clinical trials within that small search space. What that does is it greatly speeds up the development of new drug therapies,” says D’Souza.

Giving future scientists and doctors the same computational edge that gamers already enjoy.

Elsewhere on the Web:
Electronic Arts
Michigan Technological University – Manufacturing Computations Lab

 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 


  1. rypitch says:

    October 24th, 2008 at 12:15 pm (#)

    I knew “SPORE” would be a hugely important game, but I had no idea that it would inspire such a good use of its technology.

  2. ScienceRats says:

    October 24th, 2008 at 9:02 pm (#)

    Beautiful application of technology! I've always thought – while playing away the hours with Trauma Centre – that video games could really help with teaching/modeling applications!

  3. J Olsen says:

    October 29th, 2008 at 8:14 pm (#)

    Excellent application of video game technology. The inexpensive cost will open doors for many researchers & students.

  4. IMAX Filmmakers Nudge Scientists Beyond Their Expertise | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 12:56 pm (#)

    [...] Video Games and Biology 10/24/08 Jumper and Real Teleportation 2/12/08 [...]

  5. forex says:

    May 29th, 2009 at 5:36 pm (#)

    i never knew how video games could influence the world of science. i mean the technical apps used for teaching are phenomenal.

  6. forex robot says:

    November 18th, 2009 at 4:13 am (#)

    Interesting info on video Games

  7. xxx spiele says:

    November 27th, 2009 at 8:16 am (#)

    Nice work, your awsome content have forced me to to leave some positive feedback

  8.  Melatonin says:

    August 18th, 2010 at 1:20 pm (#)

    we are addicted to playing PSP Games at home, we play at least 5 games a day’*:

  9. Lighting Optoelectronics Forum %0A says:

    December 3rd, 2010 at 12:04 pm (#)

    when it comes to video games, i enjoy playing those that have very nice graphics and story like Plantz and Zombies ,”

  10. Aiko Machamer says:

    January 29th, 2011 at 12:05 pm (#)

    Howdy there, are you possessing difficulties with all the internet hosting? I required to refresh the page about big amount of instances to be able to get the web page to run!

  11. search engine marketing howell, mi says:

    July 19th, 2011 at 9:41 am (#)

    I found your weblog website on google and examine just a few of your early posts. Proceed to keep up the excellent operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Seeking ahead to studying extra from you afterward!…

  12. Paul@male yeast infection says:

    August 13th, 2011 at 11:24 pm (#)

    @Barkool Don’t anthropomorphize computers – they hate it :) )

  13. Pin Up Costumes says:

    September 10th, 2011 at 9:15 am (#)

    *Can I just say what a relief to find someone who truly knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You surely know how to bring an concern to light and make it important. Much more men and women require to read this and realize this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you undoubtedly have the gift.

  14. Erma Roesner says:

    October 30th, 2011 at 12:01 am (#)

    It’s truly a great and useful piece of information. I am happy that you just shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  15. tummy tuck san diego says:

    November 11th, 2011 at 7:41 am (#)

    I realized more something totally new on this fat reduction issue. One particular issue is a good nutrition is vital when dieting. An enormous reduction in junk food, sugary foods, fried foods, sweet foods, red meat, and white flour products could be necessary. Having wastes unwanted organisms, and wastes may prevent targets for fat loss. While a number of drugs temporarily solve the problem, the awful side effects usually are not worth it, plus they never supply more than a short-term solution. It is just a known proven fact that 95% of dietary fads fail. Many thanks for sharing your ideas on this blog site.

  16. Bernita Hansell says:

    November 15th, 2011 at 2:32 am (#)

    I use Tumblr as a middle-man in between the micro-blogging on Jaiku and Twitter and the weblogs (exactly where I adore WP too). Tumblr is perfect as some kind of notebook but I wouldn’t use it as the solely way to talk my personal brand.

  17. Grazyna Giancaspro says:

    December 15th, 2011 at 12:35 am (#)

    You are my inhalation , I have few blogs and often run out from to brand.

  18. Marc Mckindra says:

    December 22nd, 2011 at 3:50 pm (#)

    What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively helpful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to give a contribution & help other customers like its aided me. Good job.

  19. Victor Delosrios says:

    January 14th, 2012 at 3:42 pm (#)

    My name is Roderick Acevedo. Could u add a backlink on this page? You can reach me at or ICQ:063110881

  20. Jailbreak iPhone 4S iOS 5.0.1 says:

    February 1st, 2012 at 4:15 am (#)

    Thank you for all of the hard work on this web site. My mother take interest in doing research and it’s obvious why. Most people hear all concerning the dynamic method you convey very useful strategies on the web blog and invigorate participation from website visitors on this concern while our favorite child has always been discovering a lot. Enjoy the remaining portion of the year. You have been performing a powerful job.

  21. Bradly Stahlberg says:

    February 20th, 2012 at 4:38 pm (#)

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is excellent blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  22. Sharleen Falencki says:

    March 12th, 2012 at 4:02 pm (#)

    I cherished as much as you will receive carried out right here. The comic strip is attractive, your authored material stylish. nevertheless, you command get bought an impatience over that you wish be delivering the following. in poor health surely come more before again since exactly the same just about a lot often inside case you defend this increase.

  23. Zoraida Bequillard says:

    March 13th, 2012 at 1:51 pm (#)

    As I website possessor I think the content here is rattling superb , thankyou for your efforts.

  24. Andera Ecord says:

    March 20th, 2012 at 9:47 am (#)

    I am glad that I discovered this weblog , just the right information that I was searching for! .

  25. Lanita Krapf says:

    March 21st, 2012 at 8:52 am (#)

    Real nice design and style and great articles , very little else we want : D.

  26. Elliot Erben says:

    April 2nd, 2012 at 8:21 am (#)

    Some really wonderful info , Sword lily I observed this.

  27. wholesale chanel handbags says:

    April 7th, 2012 at 9:39 pm (#)

    good articles. many thanks for sharing

  28. wszytsko o morzu baltyckim says:

    April 16th, 2012 at 9:28 am (#)

    I as well believe so , perfectly pent post! .

  29. Laurene Manero says:

    April 17th, 2012 at 8:56 am (#)

    I likewise think thence , perfectly written post! .

  30. resorts in Manuel Antonio says:

    May 19th, 2012 at 8:49 pm (#)

    Excellent information but I want to let you know that I think there is issue with your RSS feeds as they quite simply seem to not be working for me. May be just me but I thought I would suggest it.

  31. Costa Rica surf camp says:

    May 19th, 2012 at 9:08 pm (#)

    Good article but I want to tell you that I think there is problem with your RSS feeds as they appear to not be working for me. Could possibly be just me but I figured I would mention it.

  32. Comcast San Francisco California says:

    June 24th, 2012 at 5:24 pm (#)

    This webpage does not show up appropriately on my droid – you may wanna try and repair that

  33. Shirley Occhipinti says:

    July 4th, 2012 at 11:13 pm (#)

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I came across this in my hunt for something regarding this.

  34. секс вконтакте says:

    July 10th, 2012 at 11:21 pm (#)

    Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Very useful info particularly the last part :) I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  35. Cyrus Contrell says:

    July 26th, 2012 at 11:27 am (#)

    Some times its a pain in the ass to read what people wrote but this site is very user friendly ! .

  36. Go To These Guys says:

    August 30th, 2012 at 5:36 pm (#)

  37. Hans Joerling says:

    November 24th, 2012 at 5:37 am (#)

    Hi there I just wanted to give a big thank you for the good information you’ve right here on this post. I will be coming again to your weblog in a few days.

  38. free hotmail sign in page says:

    January 27th, 2013 at 11:34 am (#)

    Hello, Neat post. There is a problem along with your site in internet explorer, may test this?
    IE nonetheless is the marketplace chief and a good component
    to other folks will leave out your excellent writing because of this

  39. tickets air flight says:

    March 22nd, 2013 at 3:35 pm (#)

    hey there and thank you for your info – I’ve definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise some technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the site lots of times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I am adding this RSS to my e-mail and can look out for a lot more of your respective fascinating content. Make sure you update this again soon.| tickets air flight

  40. agate cameos jewellery says:

    March 22nd, 2013 at 4:06 pm (#)

    This is very attention-grabbing, You are an excessively skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look ahead to searching for more of your fantastic post. Additionally, I have shared your site in my social networks| agate cameos jewellery

  41. door glass repair says:

    March 22nd, 2013 at 4:49 pm (#)

    Hi there are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any html coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!| door glass repair

  42. foto nunti says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 2:40 am (#)

    I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I’m quite sure I will learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!| foto nunti

  43. Oil and gas logistics says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 8:48 am (#)

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your site. You have some really great articles and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an e-mail if interested. Regards!| Oil and gas logistics

  44. walmartgarciniacambogi says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 9:01 am (#)

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my weblog thus i came to “return the favor”.I am attempting to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!| walmart garcinia cambogia

  45. bewerbungsfotosMünchen says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 10:06 am (#)

    Hello my family member! I wish to say that this post is awesome, great written and come with approximately all important infos. I would like to peer extra posts like this .| bewerbungsfotos München USA visum fotos

  46. AlternativestoGooglese says:

    March 24th, 2013 at 1:00 pm (#)

    Many thanks for writing this tremendous put up..Cherished your article content. Remember to do hold writing Alternatives to Google search engine

  47. Deanne Stawicki says:

    April 13th, 2013 at 9:26 pm (#)

    Rather entertaining many thanks, I believe your visitors could possibly want significantly more content articles similar to this carry on the fantastic do the job.

  48. accounting for dummies says:

    April 17th, 2013 at 4:28 am (#)

    I have been exploring for a little for any high-quality articles or blog posts in
    this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon
    this site. Studying this information So i am glad to
    convey that I have a very excellent uncanny feeling I found out
    just what I needed. I most unquestionably will make sure to don?
    t omit this site and give it a look on a constant basis.

  49. short term loan lender says:

    April 29th, 2013 at 10:14 pm (#)

    Usually, online cash advance instant approval offer fast approval using their online
    application processes. These companies online basically allow you to definitely apply for a
    advance loan cash advance and the funds is going to be paid directly to your

  50. Mabel says:

    April 30th, 2013 at 8:03 am (#)

    I do enjoy the way you have presented this particular issue plus it does supply me personally some fodder for thought. Nevertheless, because of just what I have personally seen, I simply wish as the actual responses pile on that individuals continue to be on point and don’t embark upon a soap box of the news du jour. All the same, thank you for this outstanding piece and whilst I can not really concur with this in totality, I respect the standpoint.

  51. disaster recovery plan says:

    May 2nd, 2013 at 6:45 am (#)

    Hi, I log on to your new stuff daily. Your writing style is
    witty, keep up the good work!

  52. optimizare says:

    July 27th, 2013 at 3:19 pm (#)

    When I first saw this title Video Games & Biology | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News on google I just whent and bookmark it. I’m often to running a blog and i actually respect your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your web site and preserve checking for brand new information.

  53. click here says:

    August 3rd, 2013 at 5:39 am (#)

    Hi! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site?
    I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  54. castles says:

    June 23rd, 2014 at 6:06 am (#)

    I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I
    am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed
    about my difficulty. You’re wonderful! Thanks!

Leave a Response


Clicky Web Analytics