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IBM Supercomputers Speeding Up MS Research

Research into multiple sclerosis has accelerated rapidly in the last few years - and doctors in Buffalo are at the forefront.

Information about how MS progresses in patients has long been out there, but it wasn’t being synthesized or analyzed effectively.

Now, SUNY Buffalo is using a new supercomputer from IBM that can help researchers make connections between environmental and hereditary factors and how MS affects its victims.

“Let’s look at every variable. Let’s let the computer find the pattern for us,” says Shawn Dolly, a vice president at IBM. “Putting all that data together can give us insights that we didn’t have 10 years ago because 10 years ago we couldn’t get all the data in one place.”

Multiple sclerosis affects more than two million people worldwide, but how and why it develops has remained cloudy.

Doctors at SUNY Buffalo have been using the IBM machine for a year.

“Previously, some of our analysis would run for several days,” says Murali Ramanathan, a researcher at SUNY Buffalo. “But by using the supercomputer we were able to do the same calculations in a matter of minutes.”

Numerous faculty are preparing to publish papers based on data gleaned from using the supercomputer. But Ramanathan cautions that any new treatments for MS are still years down the road.

“It will help us understand the mechanisms of the disease, as well as identify therapeutic targets that can be leveraged for developing new drugs for treating MS,” Ramanathan says. “My hope and everybody in the MS research community’s hope is to develop methods for curing, as well as for preventing the disease.”

Ed. note: This story previously appeared under the headline "Using 'Watson' to tackle multiple sclerosis". The supercomputer being used is not the actual "Watson" - it merely draws on similar technology. We apologize for the confusion.