HPC Simulation is Transforming the Future of Precision Medicine

By Bill Mannel, Vice President & General Manager – High Performance Computing & Artificial Intelligence, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

October 25, 2017

Simulation has revolutionized product design and manufacturing across many industries including automotive, aerospace, oil and gas exploration, and the life sciences. The ability to develop new products and test different processes in a virtual environment allows us to first explore what could be without wasting precious investments on ideas that may not succeed in the real world.

High performance computing (HPC) capabilities are enabling life sciences organizations to redefine their approach to patient diagnosis, treatment, and care delivery. Of these applications, HPC-driven simulations are driving a major paradigm shift in precision medicine, abandoning a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare for a faster, more effective model of patient-centric research.

HPC simulation is becoming increasingly vital in the life sciences field as today’s researchers strive to develop effective devices, drugs, and procedures for treating an ever-growing number of diseases. In response to this challenge, Dassault Systèmes’ Living Heart Project created the first-of-its-kind 3D realistic simulation of a human heart. The virtual model behaves and responds like a real organ—even accounting for complex fluid, electrical, and mechanical properties—which allows scientists to easily manipulate and study unique characteristics to derive faster, more accurate intelligence.

There’s no question that simulation capabilities will play a key role in transforming the treatment of cardiovascular disease; however, they also provide a glimpse into a future of medicine that is highly personalized and cost-effective.

LEVERAGING SIMULATION TO ENHANCE PATIENT CARE

While simulations are already used in some life sciences projects, the ability to model and examine a “digital twin,” or an exact digital replication of an organ, is paving the way to more accurate, real-time diagnosis, cutting-edge medical techniques, safer clinical trials, and dramatically improved patient outcomes. Digital twins would allow doctors to virtually explore an organ’s behavior in order to increase the personalization of treatments and medications, make better data-driven care decisions, and even prevent medical complications before they occur.

In the case of the Living Heart Project, researchers simulate the human heart in virtual reality (VR), allowing users to study a life-sized and life-like organ to practice procedures and observe its unique response to a variety of treatments and medications—without putting the actually patient at risk. As simulation technologies expand further into the healthcare community, doctors will be able to virtually explore the effects of new drugs and high-risk surgical procedures on simulated organs before real ones. In the future, the hope is that simulation will enable doctors to use MRI and EMR data to construct a model of a patient’s heart and explore it simply by strapping on a VR headset.

ADVANCING PRECISION MEDICINE WITH HPC

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, precision medicine research promises to improve many aspects of healthcare:

  • Wider availability of patients’ genetic and other molecular information as part of routine medical care
  • Improved ability to predict which treatments will work best for individual patients
  • Greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms by which various diseases occur
  • Improved approaches to preventing, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of diseases
  • Better integration of electronic health records (EHRs) in patient care, which will allow doctors and researchers to rapidly access medical data

Widespread HPC adoption is equipping life sciences organizations for a new era of highly effective and personalized care, tailored to our individual needs and preferences. In the future, patients may be able to use their smartphones to send real-time health data directly to their electronic medical record (EMR), which doctors could access anytime, anywhere via the cloud, and use it to build individualized treatment plans.

HPC technologies will be a key enabler of realistic simulations that are redefining precision medicine. To learn more about digital advancements that are transforming the life sciences, from breakthrough treatments to an improved quality of life, visit me on Twitter at @Bill_Mannel. And for more information on HPC solutions, check out @HPE_HPC.

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