Sparsity has become an important modeling tool in areas such as genetics, signal and audio processing, medical image processing, etc. Via the penalization of l-1 norm based regularization, the structured sparse learning algorithms can produce highly accurate models while imposing various predefined structures on the data, such as feature groups or graphs. In this thesis, I first propose to solve a sparse learning model with a general group structure, where the predefined groups may overlap with each other. Then, I present three real world applications which can benefit from the group structured sparse learning technique. In the first application, I study the Alzheimer's Disease diagnosis problem using multi-modality neuroimaging data. In this dataset, not every subject has all data sources available, exhibiting an unique and challenging block-wise missing pattern. In the second application, I study the automatic annotation and retrieval of fruit-fly gene expression pattern images. Combined with the spatial information, sparse learning techniques can be used to construct effective representation of the expression images. In the third application, I present a new computational approach to annotate developmental stage for Drosophila embryos in the gene expression images. In addition, it provides a stage score that enables one to more finely annotate each embryo so that they are divided into early and late periods of development within standard stage demarcations. Stage scores help us to illuminate global gene activities and changes much better, and more refined stage annotations improve our ability to better interpret results when expression pattern matches are discovered between genes.