With heart disease topping the list as the number one cause of death worldwide, heart rhythms disorders, or arrhythmias, are worthy of serious concern.
Hoping to halt the devastating effects of the disorder is the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (VCCRI) in Darlinghurst, Australia, where researchers are using a supercomputer to better understand, diagnose and treat arrhythmias.
Using CSIRO’s Bragg supercomputer, Dr. Adam Hill, a computational cardiologist at VCCRI, has led a team to investigate the causes of abnormal cardiac rhythms, as well as the genetic underpinnings.
Under ideal circumstances, your heart works like a metronome – pumping blood in coordinated strokes, as dictated by a serious of electrical impulses. But when that electrical conductor fails to do its job, the heart becomes less efficient and can ultimately result in death.
CSIRO’s GPU cluster was named after Australia’s first Nobel Prize winners, Lawrence and Henry Bragg. The system, launched in 2009 via a partnership with Xenon Systems, and regularly updated, ranked 154th on 2014’s TOP500 list. The cluster runs both Linux and Windows applications and is one of the fastest supercomputers running a Windows HPC operating system in the world.
Its components include:
- 128 Dual Xeon 8-core E5-2650 Compute Nodes (i.e., a total of 2048 compute cores) with 128 GB of RAM, 500 GB SATA storage and FDR10 InfiniBand interconnect
- 384 Kepler Tesla K20 GPUs (a total of 950,976 CUDA cores)
- 162 port FDR InfiniBand Switch
- large shared NFS/Windows file systems
Thanks to Bragg, the team says that this is the first time that cardiologists have gotten this close a look at the inner workings of arrhythmias. Making it possible were NVIDIA GPU accelerators that facilitated 6-200X speedups for CSIRO science applications. With Bragg, the simulation took ten days, whereas the same simulation on a regular workstation would have required 21 years to complete the job.
As far as real-life applications go, Dr. Hill hopes that his study will begin by enabling doctors to better interpret cardiac readings, which in turn will mean faster, more accurate diagnoses when it comes to heart rhythm disorders.
The next step will come by better understanding how and why the disorder manifests differently in different patients, meaning better treatments, and ultimately more lives saved.
The full text of Dr. Hill’s study can be found here.