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Darter Supercomputer Simulates Biophysics of Red Blood Cells

zhangli-peng-headshotOver at NICS, Scott Gibson writes that researchers are using the Darter supercomputer to model the biophysics of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) to understand their behavior in the spleen, with the aim of finding cures to diseases.

The project explores the critical RBC blood pressure highs and lows (gradients) required for healthy and pathological RBCs to pass through the small pores (inter-endothelial slits) in the spleen, says Principal Investigator Zhangli Peng of the University of Notre Dame.

Peng and his co-researchers typically employed 35,000 computer processor cores for six hours at a time on Kraken and are now doing so on Darter (under Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment [XSEDE] project number TG-MCB130124). And as of this writing, they have used 1,365,522.15 service units on Darter, Peng says.

With the powerful computers such as Kraken and Darter, we are able to model the biophysics of a living cell with all the cytoskeletal proteins considered,” he says. “The molecular interactions between the lipid bilayer and the cytoskeleton in an RBC were predicted. We found that the surface-area loss of the RBCs plays a much more important role than the membrane rigidity change for RBCs to pass the spleen, so we will focus on the surface-area loss in our future direction. The results may inspire some drug targeting on the RBC surface area for fighting anemia.”

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