November 29, 2017
Assistant Professor Shikha Nangia and her research team—graduate students Flaviyan Jerome Irudayanathan and Nandhini Rajagopal—have been awarded access to the Anton 2 supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to advance their research of the blood-brain barrier. Anton 2 is a supercomputer that dramatically increases the speed of molecular dynamics simulations, allowing researchers to investigate phenomena in a way that is not possible with any other technology given the extreme amount of data that needs to be processed.
The highly-selective access will give the Nangia group the computing power to characterize the role of a specific chemical modification to protein, called palmitoylation, on the blood-brain barrier’s tight junctions. Tight junctions are physical barriers that form between the cells lining the blood vessels in the brain. They prevent potentially harmful chemicals in the blood stream from entering the brain, but they also block drug molecules from treating diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Nangia’s team’s hypothesis is that the palmitoylation of tight junction forming proteins will influence the structure and function of the blood-brain barrier. Their work on the Anton2 will provide additional understanding of palmitoylation, and could potentially open new avenues for therapeutic research for treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Nangia says, “I am so grateful to have receive this award, it’s going to help us provide an unprecedented molecular-level understanding of the influence of palmitoylation on the blood-brain barrier. Without it, this work would simply not be possible.”