Imagine being rolled into a surgical theatre and knowing that the specialists about to operate on you already know every little detail of your body. In fact, they’ve already simulated this particular surgery several times, and they’ve carefully selected the tools they will use to fit your specific needs, ensuring you the best possible outcome. This is the future of medical science and it all starts with the Living Heart Project.
Every year, some 17.5 million people die from cardiovascular disease, making it the single largest cause of death in the world. In medical science, it is also one of the most mysterious, most complicated, and most risk-filled diseases to tackle. –Just think about how the individual physical makeup of each and every heart is different. No surgery is the same, and you do not want anything to go wrong. Even when all goes as planned, the recovery of your heart is unpredictable… or is it?
There is a medical science revolution in the making with 3D modeling of organs. The brainchild of the Living Heart Project, Dr. Steve Levine, Executive Director, at Dassault Systèmes has brought together a multidisciplinary community to develop a virtual model of the human heart. The model allows researchers, surgeons, students, medical device- and medical treatment developers to analyze, test and explore this vital organ in the tiniest detail before, during and after working with the real thing.
“Once we accurately model the organ level behavior, it’s possible to model the heart down to the cellular level or even at its molecular structure,” Jean Colombel, Vice President of the Life Sciences Industry department at Dassault Systèmes, says of the simulator.
“In the future, this could allow for faster and more specific interventions, because the experts involved will already know what to look for and how to deal with it” he explains, noting that this also makes any intervention much safer for the patients.
The Living Heart runs on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform which harmonizes 3D design, analysis, simulation and intelligence software in a collaborative environment. Since the project’s start in 2014, it has brought together more than 100 specialists worldwide – including researchers, physicians and engineers with regulatory experts and medical device developers – and underscores the benefits of crowdsourcing expertise in silico. Colombel says the collaborative environment is a crucial component as it enables the ability to connect multiple players around a commonly shared information referential. Should those contributors be joining from multiple disciplines, the impact would dramatically increase as new innovative concepts can emerged from those discussions. In the race to address unmet medical needs, this new innovative approach through realistic virtual human environments can accelerate the development of medical solutions and possibly their safety, and will ultimately benefit patient health and improve the patient experience.
The need to respond to these pressures without sacrificing safety is well understood by key organizations such as the US FDA. According to a statement1 issued by Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., Director CDRH, the goal of their own Computer Modeling & Simulation initiative is ”to reduce the time and cost of bringing devices to market while improving patient safety by advancing the science around computer modeling and simulation for medical devices. These models, when of sufficient quality to be considered “regulatory grade,” can be used to assess device performance, thus reducing or obviating the need for other more expensive or burdensome types of scientific evidence (such as human clinical studies).”
With this goal in mind, the FDA has joined the Living Heart Project and is able to provide critical guidance and support to the community as it develops a regulatory grade simulation solution. The medical device community will benefit with the ability to drive innovation without increasing risk. “The simulator provides you with information from all possible angles, providing you with invaluable knowledge that just wasn’t available like this before. It provides a whole new perspective of looking at things” Colombel says.
Although Dassault Systèmes has chosen to focus on the heart as its first digital simulation model in 3D, the aim is to develop an array of personalized human organs and other body parts to help us unravel the mysteries of human biology. Colombel is convinced it will have an enormous impact on global health.
“By being able to personalize organs like this, we will be able to meet previously unmet medical needs which will significantly improve global health. We will be able to treat patients more accurately, in less time and ultimately make healthcare more effective for everyone” he says.