The Living Heart Project: Remarkable Progress Achieved Through a Common Goal to Improve Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes

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Steve Levine, Chief Strategy Officer for SIMULIA Dassault Systèmes, is passionate about bringing cutting edge technologies from different disciplines to doctors and the patients they treat. In a recent recorded presentation at the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum in November 2014, Levine outlined the need for utilizing these technologies to build better human anatomical models, stating that 95% of all medical devices released to the public have never been tested on the human body.

The Living Heart Project was launched publicly in May 2014 to develop the world’s first realistically functioning computer model of the human heart. This project has made tremendous progress, and the video referenced above includes Levine and Dassault Systèmes President and CEO Bernard Charlès announcing a 5 year collaboration with the Food and Drug Association to develop cardiovascular testing paradigms.

The Living Heart Project relied on Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE platform to bring together more than 100 cardiovascular specialists from 30 organizations to develop and test the model. In the video, Levine commented that at the outset, bringing together researchers, doctors, medical device companies, and regulatory agencies was a challenging task as information is siloed. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allowed the specialists to crowdsource the heart model, with each bringing their expertise without sacrificing intellectual property.

The video shows impressive visualizations of The Living Heart model that are, pardon the pun, heart stopping. Levine points out in his presentation that it is the first four chambered 3D heart model that is based on commercially available, validated technology. He also showed that the model can be viewed in different ways, highlighting mechanical stresses important for indications such as heart failure as well as visualizing electrical conductivity which is important for studying heart arrhythmia. Levine also showed how collaborations within Dassault Systèmes were instrumental to visualize The Living Heart in 3D, as a “walk in” model. Additionally, 3DEXCITE provided true to life coloring and features to aid medical students and surgeons.

Levine went on to tell the story of Emily, a girl born with a heart that is literally “backwards,” with right and left ventricles transposed. As the earlier 3D models Levine showed in the presentation illustrated, the heart is not symmetrical, so this defect has caused Emily to have 4 pacemakers by the age of 20. In May 2014 an animated video showed Emily’s story and how the The Living Heart would help diagnose and treat her. Emily’s story is particularly touching for Levine to relay, and the reasons are best explained by him, so we encourage you to watch the entire video of his talk to learn why.

Levine talked about the collection of resources available at 3ds.com/heart which helped to describe the vision of the Living Heart Project to collaborators and to illustrate their progress.  He sees the project as a model to unite other healthcare specialists, medical device companies and regulatory bodies to collaborate around aspects of human anatomy or disease models. The 5 year collaboration with the FDA will increase the number of participating organizations from 30 to 100 and will continue to involve the Medical Device Innovation Consortium of which Dassault Systèmes is a key sponsor.

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