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Find out how a variety of “big data” projects now under way at Johns Hopkins have the potential to improve the individual health of millions—including a toddler like this one.
This fall, scientists at Hopkins who crunch numbers (big, big sets of numbers) will get a boost with the opening of the High Performance Research Computing Facility (HPRC) at Bayview Medical Center. The $30 million center is a shared venture with the University of Maryland, College Park.
- Heads Up:
If this little fellow shows early signs of brain abnormality, his pediatrician might soon be able to consult a digital library of pediatric brain scans being compiled by Hopkins researchers. The data bank has more than 5,000 whole brain MRI scans of kids who have been treated here for epilepsy, psychiatric illnesses, and more—with indexed anatomical information involving up to 1,000 structural measurements in 250 regions of the brain. “For the medical imaging world, this system will do what a search engine like Google does when you ask it to look for specific information on the Web,” says biomedical engineering professor Michael Miller.
- Breathe Easier:
As an African-American, this baby is 20 percent more likely than a non-Hispanic white baby to develop asthma. Why? Hopkins’ Kathleen Barnes is seeking clues to this disparity by studying the genetic sequencing of more than 1,000 people of African ancestry. Already the four-year project has yielded more than 49 million genetic variations that are specific to African populations, says Barnes, director of the Lowe Family Genomics Core and Genetics Research Facility on the Bayview campus.
- Better Screening:
Compared to his grandfather, this little guy will be better screened for prostate cancer, and have far less chance of unnecessary surgery. Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers are developing computer algorithms with the goal of adding them to the Epic electronic medical records system here. The idea is to crunch an ever-wider river of information—including a patient’s genetic factors, family history, race, past test results, and life expectancy. All of this will be instantly compared with similar information from other Johns Hopkins patients in the Epic system, helping doctors determine whether—and when—prostate cancer screening makes sense.
The HPRC Facility will provide some 20 petabytes of storage—equivalent to 400 million four-drawer filing cabinets stuffed with text. It will eventually quadruple in size.