Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The construction of heart modelling leads path to new therapies

10.01.2008
Heart disease is still a major killer, especially in the western world, but new therapies based on stem cells and other techniques could now be imminent. Progress is being held back however by the difficulty testing new therapies on human heart tissue, with animal models being only of limited value owing to differences in structure and activity.

The only solution in the absence of real human models is to create computerised "in-silico" models that simulate the real heart and enable possible drugs and therapies to be tested without risk to people. Although this is still some way off becoming a reality, substantial progress has been made, and the next steps were plotted at a major workshop held recently by the European Science Foundation (ESF).

The workshop highlighted how recent progress in imaging technologies was helping heart modellers overcome the big dilemma they have faced up till now - actually proving that the models really are an accurate representation of the real human heart. This has been the big "catch 22" of heart modelling, that in order to create a realistic model, you need accurate and extensive data from real hearts for calibration.

"Validation of the models is very important, and was raised at the workshop," said Blanca Rodriguez, scientific coordinator of the ESF workshop, and senior cardiac researcher at Oxford University, Europe's leading centre for cardiac modelling. "One of the problems has been that it is much easier to get experimental data from animals than humans."

Such animal data can help calibrate some aspects of the models, but only data from human hearts can fine tune them to the point at which they can actually make useful predictions and test therapies. Fortunately such data is now becoming available as a result of dramatic progress in imaging techniques that can observe cardiac activity externally without need for invasive probes. "We are now getting data at very high resolutions, and that allows us to model things in more detail, with greatly improved anatomy and structure," said Rodriguez. This in turn requires access to greater computational power and more sophisticated software, both of which are available at Oxford.

The models in turn are allowing researchers to study disease and understand what can go wrong, which is the first step towards developing cures. One of the most important diseases being modelled is myocardial ischaemia, which is the loss of blood supply to part of the heart muscle, leading ultimately to failure and potentially death if untreated.

Typically victims of heart failure never fully recover their former health and vigour, because part of the heart muscle has been permanently lost. However stem cell therapy holds the promise of being able to regenerate heart muscle destroyed by disease, but this will require careful testing to eliminate possibly dangerous side effects, such as cancer and disruption of normal heart rhythms, leading to arrhythmia, or irregular heart beats. Here again the heart models could play a vital role. "They could be used to model stem cells' behaviour, and see how they are incorporated into the heart," said Rodriguez.

The ESF workshop also had another dimension - to kick start a Europe-wide effort to catch up with the US in this vital field. Oxford was once the world leader, for remarkably the first cardiac model was developed almost half a century ago in 1961 by Dennis Noble, who although now officially retired is still assisting Rodriguez and colleagues today. Noble's original model was of just of a single heart cell. But since the late 1990s, the models have been extended to the whole organ, incorporating multiple cell types.

The workshop identified three key issues that had to be addressed, according to Rodriguez. The first one was to improve the links within Europe's scattered heart modelling community. The second two recommendations, less specific to Europe, were to create a standard and robust software infrastructure for sharing heart models and associated data, and to define exactly how to calibrate the models more effectively from experimental data.

The next step is to act on these recommendations, but Rodriguez is now confident that Europe is well placed to regain its early momentum in this vital field of medical research.

The ESF Exploratory Workshop on European Heart Modelling and Supporting Technology was held in Oxford, United Kingdom, in May 2007. The Exploratory Workshop titled Exploring Symbolic Value Creation In Organizations was held on 6-9 September 2007 in Milano, Italy. Each year, ESF supports approximately 50 Exploratory Workshops across all scientific domains. These small, interactive group sessions are aimed at opening up new directions in research to explore new fields with a potential impact on developments in science.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org/fileadmin/be_user/ew_docs/06-016_Programme.pdf

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Vanishing capillaries
23.03.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht How prenatal maternal infections may affect genetic factors in Autism spectrum disorder
22.03.2017 | University of California - San Diego

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Inactivate vaccines faster and more effectively using electron beams

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

New study maps space dust in 3-D

23.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe

23.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>