eResearch Report 2017 - 2018 - Page 33

Supporting the research endeavour
The South African Tuberculosis
Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) is
working towards predicting an
individual’s likelihood of developing
TB, but the size of the data
involved is a challenge in itself.
UCT eResearch has been working
with SATVI from the point of data
acquisition and will continue to do
so until its eventual publication.
Researchers at SATVI, co-led by
SATVI director Professor Mark
Hatherill and immunology lead
Professor Thomas Scriba, set out to
identify what differentiates healthy
individuals infected with Mtb who
ultimately develop TB from those
who remain healthy. A decade ago,
SATVI recruited a large cohort of
around 6 300 healthy adolescents,
about half of whom were infected
with Mtb. This cohort was followed
up every six months for two years.
“While we recruited all the
adolescents at the same point,
healthy and without symptoms,”
says Dr Virginie Rozot, a
postdoctoral researcher at SATVI,
“at the end of the study, we had
two clear groups: those who were
susceptible and developed TB, and
those who stayed healthy.”
The researchers’ goal was to
identify differences in immune
responses between the two
groups, and key blood markers
that could be used to distinguish
which individuals would develop
TB, so that they could be treated
As part of this project, Rozot
developed the first mass
cytometry (CyTOF) platform in
Africa. This technique combines
two experimental platforms –
flow cytometry and elemental
mass spectrometry – to allow
researchers to study more
properties of individual blood cells
than was previously possible.
Rozot and her colleagues rapidly
ran into difficulties due to the
amount of data they generated.
Every day, the cytometer would
analyse and produce data for a
few dozen samples, each with
a million-odd cells, resulting in
a high number of combinations
of markers. The resulting data
files were massive and needed
to be stored until the completion
of the project – and beyond –
for analysis. The challenge was
that the controller computer
attached to the cytometer could
not store the data generated by
the equipment.
Ashley Rustin, senior technical
specialist at UCT eResearch,
helped the group with their
data requirements by ensuring
that the data from their
instruments, such as the CyTOF,
was automatically backed up
to the research data central
storage repository.

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