Using computational science for more effective cardiac therapies
Institutional Communication Service
12 March 2018
Our body is a set of highly complex systems, made up of organs and apparatuses, each one regulated by extremely complex chemical and physical processes. Each one of these processes can be described using physical, chemical and mathematical formulas and that is why the world of computational sciences can offer new opportunities to the field of medicine, scientific research and treatments.
Thanks to supercomputing, it is in fact possible, starting from mathematical models, to elaborate extremely detailed simulations that resemble what is observed in the human body. Virtual images that are essential to our wellbeing.
The Center for Computational Medicine in Cardiology (CCMC) comes as the result of the interdisciplinary cooperation between USI Institute of Computational Science and Cardiocentro Ticino, developing new computational approaches and tools to extend our understanding of cardiac pathophysiology, improve diagnosis, and predict treatment efficacy. Its main strength is integrative analysis of medical images and signals through patient-tailored simulations. The issue is highly relevant as it affects many millions of people in Europe and several hundred thousand in Switzerland. Despite the significant progress made in the fields of science and technology, heart disease is still the number one public health concern in developed countries and represents an important part of the costs incurred by the different national health systems.
Research carried out at the Centre for Computational Medicine ranges from alterations of the heart rhythm (e.g. atrial fibrillation), to how genetic alterations (e.g. Brugada's syndrome or short or long QT syndrome) or diseases such as heart attack can affect the heart (e.g. heart failure), or the heart's electrical activity. It is now possible to obtain detailed information of the patient’s heart for each of these conditions through an electrocardiogram or images from an MRI or a CT scan. This information is then re-elaborated based on physiological and pathophysiological models and translated into numbers. Thanks to computational science and the use of complex mathematical equations, it is thus possible to determine the electrical and/or mechanical alteration of the heart, but above all it is possible to virtually apply therapies such as a pacemaker and stimulate artificially one, two or three chambers of the heart, or to carry out small therapeutic burns and treat abnormal impulses of the heart, or even use drugs to evaluate the effects on the contraction of the heart or rhythm. This approach will make it is possible to identify the best therapy for that particular heart disease in that particular stage of a patient's illness. In short, to obtain a true personalized treatment.
This way, in the future, it will be possible to pave the way for the production of more effective pharmacological, electrical and mechanical therapies for the benefit of human life and healthcare costs.