This Project Aims To Create Virtual Avatars Of Us All

It's for our health: The Virtual Physiological Human project seeks to create an accurate computer-simulated replica of a patient so that doctors can better predict how certain procedures and medications will work.

What's the Latest Development?


A large, multinational project involving over 100 researchers has as its ultimate goal the ability to create an accurate computer simulation of an individual patient's body on which doctors can test treatments and predict events such as childbirth. The University of Sheffield's year-old Insigneo Institute is spearheading the Virtual Physiological Human project, which has already received over £20 million (about US$33.7 million) in funding. A recent researchers' meeting revealed how each of them are progressing within their particular specialty. For example, British Heart Foundation fellow Dr. Paul Morris described his work with personalized virtual heart arteries.

What's the Big Idea?

The challenge of recreating an entire human body in silico is huge, and the goal won't be reached for some time to come, but rapid advances in technology could bring us predictive healthcare sooner than we think. Insigneo scientific director Marco Viceconti says, "Computers are nothing special – they know what we know, and sometimes not even that. But they can stitch things together and they’re not scared by sheer size. If we could know in advance which patient would respond to which treatment, we would just quantum leap our efficacy – without inventing anything. The opportunities are enormous."

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