Gamers looking for that one last excuse to stump up £425 next week when Sony's PS3 games console launches in the UK can now use the excuse that buying the console is help to cure ill people.

Sony today announced that the PlayStation 3 will have the capability to connect to Stanford University's Folding@home program, a distributed computing project aimed at understanding protein folding, misfolding and related diseases.

Leveraging the PS3's powerful Cell Broadband Engine, and what will be an even more powerful distribute supercomputing network of PS3 systems the project is hoping to help study the causes of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis and many cancers.

Because the process of folding proteins is so complex, computers are used to perform simulations to study the process.

Since these simulations can take up to 30 years for a single computer to complete, Folding@home enables this task to be shared among thousands of computers connected via the network, utilizing distributed computing technology. Once the data is processed, the information is sent back via the Internet to the central computer.

"We're thrilled to have SCE be part of the Folding@home project", said Vijay Pande, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University and Folding@home project lead. "With PS3 now part of our network, we will be able to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, with the goal of finding cures to some of the world's most life-threatening diseases."

With the latest system software update expected to become available at the end of March, the Folding@home icon will be added to the Network menu, PS3 users can join the program by simply clicking on the Folding@home icon or can optionally set the application to run automatically whenever PS3 is idle as long as they are plugged in and connected online.