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Gordon Supercomputer Powers Battle against Autism

Researchers are using the unique capabilities of the flash-powered Gordon supercomputer at SDSC to find transcription factors that could be used to treat mental disorders such as autism.

We live in the unique time when huge amounts of data related to genes, DNA, RNA, proteins, and other biological objects have been extracted and stored,” said lead author Igor Tsigelny, a research scientist with SDSC as well as with UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center and its Department of Neurosciences. “I can compare this time to a situation when the iron ore would be extracted from the soil and stored as piles on the ground. All we need is to transform the data to knowledge, as ore to steel. Only the supercomputers and people who know what to do with them will make such a transformation possible,” he said.

Last month, a team of researchers from SDSC, the United States and the Institute Pasteur in France reported in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior that they used Gordon to devise a novel way to describe a time-dependent gene-expression process in the brain that can be used to guide the development of treatments for mental disorders such as autism-spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. The researchers identified the hierarchical tree of coherent gene groups and transcription-factor networks that determine the patterns of genes expressed during brain development. They found that some “master transcription factors” at the top level of the hierarchy regulated the expression of a significant number of gene groups.

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