Supercomputers Solve Riddle of Congenital Heart Defects

University of Copenhagen (08/13/12)

University of Copenhagen researchers used a supercomputer to analyze millions of data points relating to congenital heart defects and found that a wide variety of risk factors influence the molecular biology of heart development.  “The discovery of a biological common denominator among many thousands of risk factors is an important step in health research, which in time can improve the prevention and diagnosis of congenital heart defects,” says Copenhagen professor Lars Allan Larsen.  The researchers analyzed several thousand genetic mutations and environmental risk factors associated with heart malformations with the goal of finding a pattern.  “Our investigations show that many different genetic factors together with environmental factors can influence the same biological system and cause disease,” says Harvard University’s Kasper Lage.  “The results are also interesting in a broader perspective, because it is probable that such interactions are also valid for diseases such as schizophrenia, autism, diabetes, and cancer.”  Copenhagen professor Soren Brunak notes the study’s outcomes illustrate how different combinations of variations in hereditary material can dispose an individual to disease, which may be useful in improving the efficiency of treatment by customizing an optimal approach for each individual patient.

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