The University of Pittsburgh's 125-node Xserve cluster is nicknamed 'The Gattaca Cluster', and is already driving innovation in the institution's genetic research labs.

The University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health is using the cluster to uncover the genetic clues hidden within DNA. Over 30 investigators and their research teams have begun addressing 120 research projects on the new cluster.

Associate professor in the department of human genetics Dr. Michael Barmada said: "Our division of statistical genetics is looking for genes that influence diseases - in a sense, we're gene hunters."

Barmada researches the genetic epidemiology of common yet complex disorders such as diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

His team is analysing data involving the many genes that lead to variations in human traits, from those that regulate differences in height and bone density to those that influence susceptibility to disease.

"Our studies – even those that analyze just 400 markers in a population of, say, 20 families with 25 people each – can be extremely computer intensive," said Dr. Barmada.

"With older computers, these complex calculations can take weeks. Insights into the factors that contribute to diseases give us targets for effective therapy. The new Gattaca Cluster is a terrific tool to help the discovery process," his colleague Dr. Whitcomb said.