Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Grid technologies for the medical community

20.01.2004


Powerful computer simulation tools have been developed to assist doctors in diagnosis, pre-operation planning and surgery. So powerful in fact that many of these tools cannot be run efficiently on normal computers. The Grid, however, is much more than a normal desktop - it is a vast interconnected collection of computers, programmes and people. And the IST project GEMSS is harnessing the Grid’s processing power to place it in the hands of medical practitioners.



The GEMSS project plans to present the first prototype of its Grid middleware at the end of February along with a testbed that will be one of Europe’s first computing and resource Grids for clinical use, allowing easy access to advanced simulation and image processing tools operating at levels of speed and efficiency that conventional local hospital systems cannot match. Developed by 10 partners from academia and industry, GEMSS (Grid-Enabled Medical Simulation Services) incorporates tools designed by previous European medical projects such as BloodSim, SimBio, COPHIT and RAPT that created effective but complex and computationally demanding aids.

"Simulation and planning tools are difficult to handle and need large amounts of computing resources to be of use and provide output you can trust," explains project coordinator Jochen Fingberg of NEC Europe. "Simulation and image processing tools, such as those incorporated into GEMSS, have been largely underused until now because of that." Simply, they need more IT resources than most hospitals and clinics can afford or accommodate.


Although computer processing power and memory capacity have advanced rapidly in recent years - the raw speed of individual computers is now one million times faster than it was 50 years ago - cost-efficient local platforms are still far too slow and distributed systems are too complex to handle to solve scientific problems, not least in the medical sector where time and accuracy are crucial. The obvious solution is the Grid - a ’Web on steroids’ that harnesses the processing power of multiple computers to allow seamless access to computing resources and services over the Internet.

Testing a range of applications

The GEMSS testbed comprises six different medical applications, ranging from a tool to simulate inhaled drug delivery, which resulted from the COPHIT IST project, to a cardiovascular modelling system based on another IST project, BloodSim. By choosing a variety of different but equally highly demanding applications, the GEMSS consortium expects to prove the Grid’s potential to improve planning and diagnosis in many medical fields through predictive high-performance simulation and advanced image processing.

Following the presentation of the first prototype in February the partners will go on to carry out a series of pilot trials with medical practitioners aimed at validating the GEMSS testbed and middleware. Expectations are high. For example, the project estimates that a planning support system to model bone structures that assists in Maxillo-facial surgery could be run in as little as 10 minutes with the power of the Grid, compared to as much as four hours on an individual machine. The trials, involving neurosurgery, cardiovascular, cranial and respiratory system simulation tools, are expected to confirm such benefits and validate the medical relevance of the numerical models in the GEMSS applications.

"These time savings are crucial for the effective use of some tools," Fingberg notes. "For example the neurosurgery tool is designed to be used during surgery when the patient is on the operating table." Evidently, for both patient and surgeon, the faster data is processed the better.

But while seamless access to services and speed are important factors, so too is security.

Given the sensitive nature of the information, from bone scans to brain scans, the data required for the simulations must be processed in a secure and lawful way, a basic necessity if Grid technologies are to be employed by the medical sector.

"I don’t think the Grid is being used practically in the medical community at present - the main reason being security and legal issues," Fingberg says, noting that in evaluating existing Grid systems the project found that generic middleware provides insufficient guarantees of security and privacy.

A secure and lawful approach

GEMSS was therefore designed with a service-oriented structure that makes security easier to address, and transport level as well as end-to-end security features have been incorporated into the middleware, which will be compliant with EU laws.

For the medical sector, secure Grid technologies promise to vastly improve procedures and patient care, and perhaps most significantly, if they are to be adopted commercially, they can also provide important financial savings.

To obtain the computational power needed to efficiently use applications such as those incorporated into the GEMSS testbed, clusters of computers and IT infrastructure including expertise would be needed - something only the largest research institutions could afford. With the Grid, however, all a hospital, clinic or individual practitioner needs is a desktop computer connected to a Grid service provider via the Internet. Medical practitioners would only pay for processing power as and when they require it, rather than investing in infrastructure that is used infrequently and doesn’t allow the accommodation of new services at low cost.

But when will use of the Grid itself become commonplace in the medical sector?

"One has to be patient," Fingberg says. "We need more pilot studies that test more applications in more areas of healthcare to convince the medical community of the benefits. I think it will be at least three to five years before the medical sector makes real use of the Grid."

Set to conclude in February 2005, the GEMSS project represents an important step toward ensuring that happens.

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Novel communications architecture for future ultra-high speed wireless networks
17.06.2019 | IMDEA Networks Institute

nachricht Concert of magnetic moments
14.06.2019 | Forschungszentrum Juelich

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel communications architecture for future ultra-high speed wireless networks

17.06.2019 | Information Technology

Climate Change in West Africa

17.06.2019 | Earth Sciences

Robotic fish to replace animal testing

17.06.2019 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>