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Company NewsOctober 17, 2018

Living Heart: 3D Simulation in Practice

The Living Heart Project brings the heart to life by means of 3D modelling, simulations and virtual reality.
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Patrycja Ekner

Saving lives with technology; Dassault Systems takes this rather literally with the ‘Living Heart Project’. The medical sector is now extensively using lifelike 3D simulations, in which not just the heart but also the human brain and even feet are virtually simulated. Here are some practical examples.

The Living Heart Project brings the heart to life by means of 3D modelling, simulations and virtual reality. It connects people, processes and data that enables scientists to jointly carry out research on the heart’s functioning in an entirely new way. It enables physicians to prepare more effectively for surgery, and doctors in training can gain experience in the virtual world.

More than 111 organisations worldwide are now participating in the Living Heart Project. These include medical research institutes, doctors’ associations, manufacturers of medical equipment, and supervisors from various countries. They work on open innovation projects via the platform, with concrete practical applications that focus on much more than just the heart:

  1. Simulating effect of medications

Cardiac arrhythmia can be a side effect of medications, causing chaos in the heart’s electrical activity. This reduces the pumping function and slows down the blood circulation. Arrhythmia can in some cases even be fatal.

When introducing a new medicine, pharmaceutical companies are therefore obligated to research the risk of arrhythmia. This research can take years, and is very expensive. Living Heart shortens this time period by simulating a medicine’s interaction with the entire heart function. Researchers from Stanford University have, in collaboration with UberCloud, used the Living Heart as a platform for a model that enables pharmaceutical enterprises to test medications on the risk of arrhythmia.

  1. Determining impact of removing cranial parts

Traumatic brain injury may require the removal of part of the skull to provide more space for the brain to swell, which reduces the pressure and improves the oxygen supply. Any adverse consequences of such surgery are however difficult to establish. It is also difficult to determine the optimal size and location of the cranial opening.

A team from Stanford University was successful in creating a by means of magnetic resonance. Simulation taught the scientists more about the impact of an opening. This study can help neurosurgeons to optimise the size and location of the cranial opening and minimise any tissue damage. This is a fine example of what ‘Living Brain’ can mean in the field of brain research.

  1. Predicting recovery after surgery

After surgery on a foot or ankle, the recovery greatly depends on the pressure exerted by the patient whilst walking, as well as the impact of how the patient walks. With a clear image of all of this, doctors can more effectively attune the recovery with the patient after the surgery.

The Belgian Digital Orthopaedics work with personalised foot models that speed up the recovery.

Using realistic simulation, the best possible treatment can be established for a specific individual. The physician already has a better idea of the recovery process during surgery, and the patient can be better informed.

  1. Printing a beating heart in 3D

According to the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate, at least 20 hospital patients in the Netherlands die each month due to medical errors. Another 32 people suffer damage from errors. Simulation can contribute to reducing these numbers. Just like pilots learn to fly in a simulator, physicians can gain additional experience in a virtual environment.

Biomodex even goes one step further. They print a heart in 3D for training purposes, for which the French start-up uses data available in the Living Heart Project. By using real-life data, Biomodex can print an organ that feels and moves as if it were a real one.

Accessible for everyone

Biomodex is just one company that demonstrates the power of the Living Heart Project. By using a cloud-based platform, the research data are accessible for everyone. So not just large medical organisations, but also small start-ups from China, Egypt or the Netherlands can contribute to an improved service for the patient. And collaborating more effectively, which will also ultimately save lives.

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