The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine

Medics and scientists from the Trust and the University of Shefield are working together, alongside partners throughout Europe, to recreate the entire human body using powerful computers.

In the first five years, researchers will focus on:

  • Building the digital patient (towards a complete computer model)
  • In silico clinical trials (faster access to new drugs; fewer trials)
  • Personalised health forecasting (individualised patient predictions)

A revolution in healthcare

Once the system is built, doctors and clinicians will be able to see how all the different parts of the body work and react together, from the smallest molecules to the largest organs. They will also be able to see changes in the body over time from nanoseconds to years. The technology, finally possible because of the enormous growth in the power and storage capacity of computers, has the potential to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine living memory.

It will also play a pivotal role in addressing some of the major health challenges facing the UK and Europe today, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Tackling the big health challenges

Researchers from the Insigneo Insitute are using sophisticated bone imaging machines to build computer models of the skeleton, so they can see how likely a patient is to suffer from a hip fracture in ten years’ time. This work will be central to future approaches to healthcare, preventing falls and weakened bones, rather than repairing the damage afterwards. Last year, four million people in Europe suffered a fracture due to osteoporosis, at a cost of 30bn Euros.

Virtual heart prototype

A new award-winning computer system which assesses heart disease better than the naked eye could revolutionise the way patients with conditions such as angina and heart attack are assessed and treated – saving lives and money.

The brand new prototype is capable of detecting which heart patients need treatment more sensitively and more accurately than the human eye by creating a 3D model of the coronary arteries during an angiogram. This allows doctors to compute precise blood pressure differences down the artery without having insert special wires – a tricky, invasive and sometimes less accurate procedure.

Our initial study with 20 patients had a 97 per cent success rate – and wider scale replication could mean fewer patients having major bypass surgery or requiring artery-opening stents. To find out more click here.

Brain aneurysms

In over two per cent of the population, small swellings can develop in the blood vessels of the brain.

Most are harmless, but if one ruptures it is usually life-threatening. Insigneo researchers are already testing accurate computer models of these brain aneurysms, to predict the likelihood of rupture in each individual case, so as to indicate when treatment is necessary, to avoid unnecessary brain surgery and to target only the patients at risk.

For more information about the work of the Insigneo Institute click here.


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