The Living Heart Project is a transnational research initiative aimed at revolutionising cardiovascular medicine through highly realistic simulation.
The project has a lot of international partners including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), universities of Oxford and Glasgow, plus a number of medical device companies, practitioners and industry regulators.
The project's main purpose is to create realistic VR and 3D models of the human heart which could be used by medical practitioners for training, learning, treatment and surgery. In all, more than 50 organisations and over 100 cardiovascular disease (CVD) specialists are involved in the project, powered by Dassault Systèmes' 3D Experience VR platform.
The importance of this pioneering initiative stems from the terrifying reality that CVD remains the leading cause of death throughout the world. According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) CVDs are now responsible for over 30 per cent of all global deaths – that's nearly 20 million people a year. The costs of heart treatment are high and research is both expensive and invasive.
However, what if physicians and surgeons could virtually analyse the state of their patients' hearts and plan treatments and surgeries using the same VR technology that the manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and other high-tech industries rely on to test their high-precision products before they are actually built? The human heart, after all, is often called nature's most sophisticated machine, so could new therapies be first designed and tested in the VR world before being approved for treatment of CVD patients?
The Living Heart Project's answer to all those questions is 'yes' and the experiments – like VR evaluations of insertion, placement and performance of pacemaker leads and other cardiovascular devices – are already under way in specialised hospitals of Europe and the USA. This is just the first step to providing highly personalised care of CVD patients. One of its biggest advantages is that thanks to the non-invasive VR approach, research into new therapies and devices can be carried out without any inconvenience to actual patients.