A new digital model appeared to correctly predict the outcomes of medical treatment with a pacemaker in patients with heart failure. Using a digital twin – a computer model that processes data into a simulation – researchers from Maastricht University and the University Medical Center Utrecht created a digital copy of the patients’ cardiovascular system. This technology can pave the way for individual, tailor-made medical treatments, the university writes in a press release.
Why you need to know this
Cardiovascular disease is and remains one of the greatest health challenges. The Dutch CardioVascular Alliance estimates that by 2030 almost two million people will be chronic heart patients.
To simulate the hearts of patients in the study, scientists used a computer model developed in Maastricht, called CircAdapt. Maastricht researchers have been working on this digital model of the human cardiovascular system for years. CircAdapt predicts very precisely the consequences of small changes in, for example, the pumping force of the heart or electrical conduction. But the computer model can also help cardiologists make a better diagnosis. In patients with heart failure, it is often a combination of factors that leads to the specific clinical picture.
“This technology not only opens the door for tailor-made treatment for heart failure – personalized medicine – but also offers a unique platform for animal-free research into cardiovascular disease and innovative education with virtual patients,” says Joost Lumens, research leader and professor of Biomedical Technology at Maastricht University. “With these promising results, we now want to set up prospective studies, so that we can come one step closer to the actual use of this innovation.”
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In the case of the 45 patients with heart failure, the computer model successfully predicted the effect of pacemaker therapy. In reality, the patients at the UMC in Utrecht had already undergone such treatment. In this way, the researchers could properly determine whether the effects predicted by the digital model had actually occurred in the hearts of the treated patients. This was the case even if the therapy did not appear to have the desired effect. The Utrecht cardiologists are therefore very satisfied with this approach.
“Thanks to the digital twin, we now have the opportunity to predict the usefulness – but also the unhelpful – of pacemaker treatment in patients with heart failure. This way we can also select patients for surgery more accurately,” says Mathias Meine, professor of Device Therapy at Heart Failure in Utrecht. “In addition, this computer model allows us to easily test innovations in the digital lab, thus making new ideas for heart disease treatments more quickly clinically applicable.”