Using a software model of active heart tissue that has been in existence for several years, researchers at the Université de Montréal have performed what they believe to be the largest simulation of electrical activity in the heart yet performed.
The researchers used an SGI Altix system with 768 processors that is part of the Quebec Network for High Performance Computing, a computing resource shared by Canadian scientists. Dr. Mark Potse and Dr Alain Vinet scaled up a 120 million-point model of heart tissue to a model containing 2 billion points. The two-hour simulation modeled only 5 milliseconds of electrical activity in a block of heart tissue. Simulating a full heartbeat would take two weeks.
Modeling the electrical activity of the heart tissue could lead to a better understanding of some heart diseases, including Brugada syndrome and Long-QT syndrome. These diseases can be diagnosed using an ECG (electrocardiogram), but to really study the mechanisms of the disease requires a complex software simulation.
"We have been using the model code for research and not really developing it further, but after the success of the trial I am now thinking about improving the model, making it much larger and much more detailed, and attacking other diseases that we couldn't handle before," said Dr. Potse.