Graphic Cards Can Help Save Lives

Written by Contributor

December 11, 2012


Graphic cards are the essential piece to our desktop computers, the better the GPUs, the more breathtaking the graphics of the games we are playing, the more detailed the movies we are watching and the more responsive the videos/photos we are rendering. For us, this is the reason why we used the graphic cards, but for some, they used it to help people.

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom are conducting tests with the use of GPUs for medical purposes. They are creating tests with the use of NVIDIA® Tesla® GPUs to observe the mutations of the H1N1 virus so they can uncover the mechanism of the virus in order to create a resistance against the deadly virus.

Three years ago, the H1N1 influenza as reported claimed the lives of 284,000 on the first twelve months and as many as 575,400 were infected. One of the main factors which caused the high mortality rate was the rapid mutation of the virus strain that rendered all the anti-influenza drugs (namely Tamiflu® (oseltamivir) and Relenza® (zanamivir)) ineffective.

Since the aftermath of the outbreak, many researchers are working to find a solution to identify the mutation patterns of the H1N1 in order to develop a drug to minimize the spread and to avoid a wide-spread pandemic. The challenge in studying viruses is that they change so fast and are very fragile to capture, especially with the case of the H1N1 which can mutate very quickly and frequently. To help on their research, they will require supercomputers to simulate the virus behavior, but these devices are very expensive in regards to purchase and maintenance.

But with the use of NVIDIA® Tesla® GPUs by assembling a four-node, eight GPU system, the researchers were able to run simulations with the AMBER molecular dynamics application. Because of this, they were able to observe the chemical and biological changes and behavior of the virus, as a reult, they managed to uncover the H1N1’s resistance mechanism in fighting off existing anti-influenza drugs. Because of the GPU-based system, the researchers were able to repeat the simulation tests in a much larger and more complex way to explore multiple virus mutations.

The processing speed of the GPUs managed to deliver results of the simulation that is only half the time and one-fifth of the servers it would take for it to be processed from a CPU-only cluster with 16-24 processors.



Aside from the H1N1 research, researchers from the Forschungszentrum Jülich; a German interdisciplinary research center hosted the Jülich Supercomputing Centre, one of Europe’s most powerful supercomputing resources are finding ways to find a cure and treatment for Autism, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Researchers are finding ways to unlock the mysteries of these neurological disorders since these require intimate understanding of the whole structure of the human brain, which has a network of 100 billion neurons.

In order to study the human brain, they must develop a computer design of the actual human brain, but creating such model requires high level of detail and really complex and delicate process which can take a huge amount of computational resources. But the researchers from Jülich Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-1) took a unique approach, they used a collection of data sets (which includes images of histologic sections and magnetic resonance images) and then combine it. They also created images from 3D polarized lighting images (3D-PLI) to provided super detailed information on the direction and location of nerve fiber tracts in the brain.

The INM-1 used GPU-accelerated supercomputers  to create the computer model, it also includes the 206-node Jülich Dedicated GPU Environment (JuDGE) system, it is equipped with NVIDIA® Tesla® GPUs. With the help of the GPUs, the researchers were able to reconstruct the histologic brain sections with 50x more acceleration, plus they were able to render a high-definition, accurate and realistic human brain.

With this development, researchers will be able to understand and uncover the true cases of the serious effects of the neurological diseases.

Thanks to the advancement of technology, some devices that we used everyday can become an aide for medical breakthrough, and hopefully in the coming future, we will be able to find cures to some of the dreaded diseases that we have encountered in our history.



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