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A Virtual Heart Attack

Simulation software will transform the way doctors work.


In manufacturing, we use 3D modeling and simulation to design and engineer automobiles and airplanes in an effort to streamline—and take risk out of—the process through production. The concept of the “digital twin” is even inching into life sciences industries as we seek ways to create quality medical devices and medicines that we can analyze and maintain in a proactive manner. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take that technology and apply it to the human body, too? Now, thanks to Dassault Systemes, we can.

Dassault is applying its technology to the human heart. Called the Living Heart Project, the software company, in collaboration with medical researchers, practitioners, device manufacturers and industry regulators, has created a simulator that helps doctors understand how the body works in an effort to decide the best treatment for each patient.

Images from a CT scan or MRI are used to create a 3D computational model that can understand the equations of flow and mechanics, thereby determining where a stress may be on a vessel, for example, enabling physicians to investigate the possible cause of a heart attack.

“The biggest challenge cardiologists have is understanding the individual patient,” said Steve Levine, Dassault’s director of the Living Heart Project. “The technology we have today often provides an indication of what the problem is, but not a direct analysis of what the problem is. It is difficult, expensive and sometimes invasive to really see what’s going on. What we think we can do is take a simulation of that exact heart by taking our understanding of the physics of the heart and providing that in full 3D to the cardiologist to get a true representation of what is happening.”

It is an immersive 3D environment in which Dassault has created two scenarios, including a virtual operating room where doctors can investigate surgical procedures, and a second scenario that includes a deep dive investigation into the heart itself.

While the focus is currently on modeling the heart—because cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of people worldwide—the model will expand to other organs until eventually the entire body will be simulated.

This is the future of personalized medicine—happening right now.

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