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World’s Top Supercomputer Simulates the Human Heart

Popular Mechanics (10/22/12) Kathryn Doyle

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers say they used Sequoia, currently ranked as the world’s most powerful supercomputer, to develop the fastest computer simulation of the human heart.  The researchers used a highly scalable program called Cardioid to model the electrical signals traveling from cell to cell.  Cardioid treats each cell like a unit.  “The processes within a cell are captured in a set of 19 ordinary differential equations, so we can’t get inside that because they’re treated as a single entity,” says LLNL’s Fred Streitz.  The researchers say this process should enable them to investigate the competing theories for how cells are arranged in the heart.  The Cardioid model works well for researching arrhythmia because the system’s longer run time allows researchers to simulate the introduction of an anti-arrhythmic drug into the bloodstream, seeing the point when drug levels spike and when they drop off.  “The details that differentiate individual hearts can be very fine, and our ability to model at extraordinarily high resolution, currently a factor of eight greater than previously, that allows us to capture very fine differences,” says LLNL’s Dave Richards.

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