Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Whole genome analysis, stat

Supercomputer dramatically accelerates rapid genome analysis

Although the time and cost of sequencing an entire human genome has plummeted, analyzing the resulting three billion base pairs of genetic information from a single genome can take many months.

Beagle, a Cray XE6 supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory, supports computation, simulation and data analysis for the biomedical research community.

Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

In the journal Bioinformatics, however, a University of Chicago-based team—working with Beagle, one of the world's fastest supercomputers devoted to life sciences—reports that genome analysis can be radically accelerated. This computer, based at Argonne National Laboratory, is able to analyze 240 full genomes in about two days.

"This is a resource that can change patient management and, over time, add depth to our understanding of the genetic causes of risk and disease," said study author Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, the A. J. Carlson Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics and director of the Cardiovascular Genetics clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine.

"The supercomputer can process many genomes simultaneously rather than one at a time," said first author Megan Puckelwartz, a graduate student in McNally's laboratory. "It converts whole genome sequencing, which has primarily been used as a research tool, into something that is immediately valuable for patient care."

Because the genome is so vast, those involved in clinical genetics have turned to exome sequencing, which focuses on the two percent or less of the genome that codes for proteins. This approach is often useful. An estimated 85 percent of disease-causing mutations are located in coding regions. But the rest, about 15 percent of clinically significant mutations, come from non-coding regions, once referred to as "junk DNA" but now known to serve important functions. If not for the tremendous data-processing challenges of analysis, whole genome sequencing would be the method of choice.

To test the system, McNally's team used raw sequencing data from 61 human genomes and analyzed that data on Beagle. They used publicly available software packages and one quarter of the computer's total capacity. They found that shifting to the supercomputer environment improved accuracy and dramatically accelerated speed.

"Improving analysis through both speed and accuracy reduces the price per genome," McNally said. "With this approach, the price for analyzing an entire genome is less than the cost of the looking at just a fraction of genome. New technology promises to bring the costs of sequencing down to around $1,000 per genome. Our goal is get the cost of analysis down into that range."

"This work vividly demonstrates the benefits of dedicating a powerful supercomputer resource to biomedical research," said co-author Ian Foster, director of the Computation Institute and Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science. "The methods developed here will be instrumental in relieving the data analysis bottleneck that researchers face as genetic sequencing grows cheaper and faster."

The finding has immediate medical applications. McNally's Cardiovascular Genetics clinic, for example, relies on rigorous interrogation of the genes from an initial patient as well as multiple family members to understand, treat and prevent disease. More than 50 genes can contribute to cardiomyopathy. Other genes can trigger heart failure, rhythm disorders or vascular problems.

"We start genetic testing with the patient," she said, "but when we find a significant mutation we have to think about testing the whole family to identify individuals at risk."

The range of testable mutations has radically expanded. "In the early days we would test one to three genes," she said. "In 2007, we did our first five-gene panel. Now we order 50 to 70 genes at a time, which usually gets us an answer. At that point, it can be more useful and less expensive to sequence the whole genome."

The information from these genomes combined with careful attention to patient and family histories "adds to our knowledge about these inherited disorders," McNally said. "It can refine the classification of these disorders," she said. "By paying close attention to family members with genes that place then at increased risk, but who do not yet show signs of disease, we can investigate early phases of a disorder. In this setting, each patient is a big-data problem."

Beagle, a Cray XE6 supercomputer housed in the Theory and Computing Sciences (TCS) building at Argonne National Laboratory, supports computation, simulation and data analysis for the biomedical research community. It is available for use by University of Chicago researchers, their collaborators and "other meritorious investigators." It was named after the HMS Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his famous scientific voyage in 1831.

The National Institutes of Health and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funded this study. Additional authors include Lorenzo Pesce, Viswateja Nelakuditi, Lisa Dellefave-Castillo and Jessica Golbus of the University of Chicago; Sharlene Day of the University of Michigan; Thomas Coppola of the University of Pennsylvania; and Gerald Dorn of Washington University.

John Easton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease
27.11.2015 | Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg

nachricht Increased carbon dioxide enhances plankton growth, opposite of what was expected
27.11.2015 | Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>