University of Pittsburgh gets wired for speed with Apple Xserve G5 cluster

PITTSBURGH, April 13 Every week in the CBS network's new hit series Numb3rs, an FBI agent relies on his math genius brother to find patterns and equations that help to solve crimes. With its new Apple Xserve G5 computing cluster, the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) is solving double-helix puzzles in human genetics every day and faster than a speeding FBI-issue bullet.

Using the school's newly installed 125-node Xserve cluster, more than 30 investigators and scientific teams, engaged in more than 120 complex research projects have all the computing power they could ask for, according to M. Michael Barmada, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of human genetics at GSPH. Paid for with a shared resource grant from the National Institutes of Health, the human genetics computing cluster is among the fastest at an academic medical center in the United States.

"Our division of statistical genetics is looking for genes that influence diseases," explained Dr. Barmada, whose research focuses on the genetic epidemiology of common yet complex disorders such as diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. "In a sense, we're gene hunters."

Dr. Barmada and his colleagues are using their new computing power dubbed locally as the Gattaca Cluster for the 1997 feature film to analyze data involving the many genes that lead to variations in human traits, from those that regulate differences in height and bone density to those that influence susceptibility to disease. The Gattaca Cluster supports dozens of highly specialized statistical genetics applications used in ongoing research projects. Using genetic analysis algorithms, the computer can evaluate unique markers that characterize a segment of an individual's genetic material and attempt to correlate the markers with patterns of transmission through a family or population.

"Our studies even those that analyze just 400 markers in a population of, say, 20 famil


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