Rutgers University scientists want public to help with Zika research

Rutgers scientists want public's help with Zika research. By downloading an app, the public can help donate computing power.

Rutgers scientists want public's help with Zika research. By downloading an app, the public can help donate computing power. (5/20/16)

NEW BRUNSWICK - Two Rutgers scientists are seeking the public's help as they search for a cure for the Zika virus.

Dr. Alex Perryman and Dr. Joel Freundlich are part of a supercomputing project that is screening current drugs and millions of drug-like compounds against models of Zika protein structures.

Anyone with an Internet-connected computer or Android smartphone or tablet can download an app that runs the program while their computer is idle.

Perryman, a research teaching specialist at Rutgers' medical school, says the project will be able to evaluate 6 million different compounds available commercially or approved in the U.S. and Europe.

“When you turn your computer on, it'll run calculations to harness your dormant computer power that would otherwise go to waste,” Perryman says.

The app will start to run combinations of molecules until the computer finds some that may actually succeed at breaking down the virus

“It helps us on what to test experimentally,” says Freundlich.

Those drug experiments will then be sent to labs in San Diego and Brazil for actual lab testing.

“Tests [will be] done in a test tube, in-vitro, not on infected people, but they will give us early indication as to what are the most promising molecules to work with,” Freundlich says.

Zika is spread by mosquitoes and sexual contact with infected persons, and can cause severe birth defects. More than 500 cases have been detected in the continental U.S., all linked to overseas travel. There are 12 cases in New Jersey.

There is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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