More than 30,000 gamers around the world have signed up to Stanford University's Folding@home project following Sony's move to allow gamers to use the PlayStation 3 to provide computing power.

Stanford University's Folding@home program is 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."

According to the latest statistics, nearly 40,000 PS3 CPUs are linked with the project - and more than 30,000 have been actively performing calculations in the last 50 days.