Doctors here in Beantown may soon turn to one of the world’s fastest supercomputers as an aid to fixing bum tickers and removing formerly inoperable tumors.

A new IBM BlueGene supercomputer, recently installed at Boston University, could give surgeons real-time, 3-D visualizations of patients’ internal organs as they implant lifesaving devices or direct robotic instruments through tricky procedures, scientists said.

Rather than poking around in a patient while looking at a two-dimensional fluoroscopic image, implant doctors could work with a detailed, 3-D picture of organs and tissues produced by the supercomputer.

Even the fastest desktops are not up to the task. Only the latest generation of supercomputers is fast enough to take the flood of data from a CT scan and turn it into a live 3-D model of patients’ insides.

“The value is the real-time capability,” said BU professor of biomedical engineering Solomon Eisenberg, who is working with doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospital) on the 3-D visualization of patients’ internal anatomies and implant devices.

“That’s the holy grail piece: to have computational aspect happen fast enough to inform what you’re doing next, when you are in the middle of doing a lot of things,” he added.

By Mark Baard

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