NHS Unveils Virtual Human Body Prototype


Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England have unveiled a software-based human body replica that they hope will reinvent the way that long-term care planning is carried out across the NHS. The project is a collaboration between researchers from the University of Sheffield, and researchers from the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The project is headquartered in the Insigneo Institute, on the University of Sheffield campus.

Called the Virtual Physiological Human, the prototype has been in development for more a year. Researches set out to create a representational software model of the human body, complete with all of the known information about the properties and behaviors of each body system, and how those system control and interact with other systems. Mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of the human body are being digitally represented within the model. Researchers hope that, in time, the project will “lead to treatment that sees the body as a single multi organ system rather than as a collection of individual organs.” The project seems to borrow from the efforts of meteorology researchers, who base a large portion of their research efforts on building and improving the accuracy of a computerized model that they then use to test hypotheses.


For now, the project is in its early stages, and is focused on cataloging the masses of research being published from hospitals and laboratories across the world, and accounting for their conclusions in the VPH model. During the unveil, researchers focused discussions and prototype demonstrations on the tangible features that they have tackled thus far:

• Imaging and computational modeling of pulmonary disease.
• VIRTUheart, a model of intra-coronary physiology which currently calculates virtual fractional flow reserve (vFFR) to support coronary artery disease research.
Prediction of fracture risk.
• Virtual, physiological and computational neuromuscular models for the predictive treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

Dr. Keith McCormack, business development lead at the Insigneo Institute, describes the project in broader terms, "What we’re working on here will be vital to the future of healthcare… The Virtual Physiological Human will act as a software-based laboratory for experimentation and treatment that will save huge amounts of time and money and lead to vastly superior treatment outcomes."

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