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Supercomputing the Link Between Alzheimer’s and Cancer

Lead investigator: Stephen Wong, Houston Methodist Research Institute

Lead investigator: Stephen Wong, Houston Methodist Research Institute

Over at the TACC Blog, Jorge Salazar writes that researchers from the Houston Methodist Research Institute used supercomputers to discover a shared pathway in gene transcription between Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. As published in the open access journal Scientific Reports, this is the first time that linkages have between the two diseases have ever been found.

The scientists used the Lonestar and Stampede supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin to analyze and compare data from thousands of genes and to narrow the search for common cell signaling pathways of the two diseases. The Lonestar and Stampede systems are part of the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a single virtual system that scientists use to interactively share computing resources, data and expertise.

In this video, the workings of DNA Microarrays are shown, looking at how the process of Gene Expression Profiling, Protein Microarrays and Comparative Genomic Hybridization Microarrays.

Although GBM and Alzheimer’s both affect nearly 50% for aged population between 65 and 85 years of age, the body itself has very fine regulation at a very detailed level within the individual signaling pathways to make these two diseases exclude each other,” said study co-author Hong Zhao, HMRI. “Different kinds of cells, like Alzheimer’s disease cells or cancer cells, have very fine and elaborated regulations on the general molecular signaling pathways, which depend on the cells’ response to the microenvironments.”

The NIH program officer for the grant, Dan Gallahan, deputy director of the Division of Cancer Biology with the National Cancer Institute remarked: “This work of Dr. Wong’s is quite exciting in that it shows connections between two of the most intractable diseases in modern society. And while our focus is on cancer, the great hope is that as we make these connections we can leverage that knowledge to find new targets and opportunities that can provide meaningful intervention for either disease.”

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