UK doctors have stored 1,600 beating human hearts in digital form on a computer to better understand the relationship between people’s genes and heart disease.
Scientists at the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Sciences Centre at Hammersmith Hospital are scanning detailed 3D videos of the hearts of 1,600 patients and collecting genetic information from each volunteer.
“There is a really complicated relationship between people’s genes and heart disease, and we are still trying to unravel what that is,” said Dr Declan O’Regan, who is involved in the heart study.
“But by getting really clear 3D pictures of the heart we hope to be able to get a much better understanding of the cause and effect of heart disease and give the right patients the right treatment at the right time,” O’Regan said.
The idea of storing so much information on so many hearts is to compare them and to see what the common factors are that lead to illnesses.
“There are often subtle signs of early disease that are really difficult to pick up even if you know what to look for. A computer is very sensitive to picking up subtle signs of a disease before they become a problem,” O’Regan said.
The study is among a wave of new “big data” ventures that are transforming the way in which research is carried out, ‘BBC News’ reported.
Computers at the European Bioinfomatics Institute (EBI) in Cambridge store the entire genetic code of tens of thousands of different plants and animals. The information occupies the equivalent of more than 5,000 laptops.
To find out how the human mind works, researchers at the Institute for Neuroimaging and Informatics at the University of Southern California are storing 30,000 detailed 3D brain scans, requiring the space equivalent to 10,000 laptops.
The Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope being built in Africa and Australia, will collect data in one year that is 150 times the current total annual global internet traffic.