Parallelizing the Cellular Potts Model on graphics processing units

Jose J. Tapia, Roshan M. D’Souza
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, United States
Computer Physics Communication, Vol. 182, No. 4. (17 April 2011), pp. 857-865.


   title={Parallelizing the Cellular Potts Model on graphics processing units},

   author={Tapia, J.J. and D’Souza, R.M.},

   journal={Computer Physics Communications},




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The Cellular Potts Model (CPM) is a lattice based modeling technique used for simulating cellular structures in computational biology. The computational complexity of the model means that current serial implementations restrict the size of simulation to a level well below biological relevance. Parallelization on computing clusters enables scaling the size of the simulation but marginally addresses computational speed due to the limited memory bandwidth between nodes. In this paper we present new data-parallel algorithms and data structures for simulating the Cellular Potts Model on graphics processing units. Our implementations handle most terms in the Hamiltonian, including cell-cell adhesion constraint, cell volume constraint, cell surface area constraint, and cell haptotaxis. We use fine level checkerboards with lock mechanisms using atomic operations to enable consistent updates while maintaining a high level of parallelism. A new data-parallel memory allocation algorithm has been developed to handle cell division. Tests show that our implementation enables simulations of >106 cells with lattice sizes of up to 2563 on a single graphics card. Benchmarks show that our implementation runs 80x faster than serial implementations, and 5x faster than previous parallel implementations on computing clusters consisting of 25 nodes. The wide availability and economy of graphics cards mean that our techniques will enable simulation of realistically sized models at a fraction of the time and cost of previous implementations and are expected to greatly broaden the scope of CPM applications.
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