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Digital twins from human hearts

From l. to r.: Gernot Plank (Medical University of Graz), doctoral candidates Thomas Grandits and Thomas Pock (both Graz University of Technology) © Lunghammer / Graz University of Technology

If doctors had a digital model of the diseased heart, they would be able to identify which therapy would make the most sense. A group of researchers at the Medical University of Graz and Graz University of Technology aim to make this possible in the future. This is because cardiovascular diseases remain one of the most frequent causes of death in the industrialised world. For this reason, scientists in Graz are intensively working on computer models of the human heart. With the help of such a digital twin, processes in the entire heart can be depicted, therapeutic scenarios can be tried out and ultimately the optimal treatment can be found.
The creation of a generally valid model of the heart is a complicated one. The process of a heartbeat is divided into thousands of the smallest temporal units, for which the state of the smallest spatial units of the organ are calculated. "This requires complex mathematical procedures, special algorithms and special hardware that can perform billions of computing actions per second", explained Thomas Pock, computer scientist at the Institute of Computer Vision and Representation at the Graz University of Technology. In turn, sophisticated mathematical techniques are necessary in order to develop a customised, patient-specific model. The researchers derive the diagnostic data from MRI, ECG and other heart examinations of the person to be treated. Clinically usable prototypes of a fully automated digital twin heart are expected to be ready for testing as early as 2022.

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