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Scientists Design “Virtual Twins” to Pre-test Medical Treatments

Customized computer models of blood flow, bones and muscles, promise a way to study a medicine’s effects before treatment.

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Doctors can never be certain exactly how a patient is going to respond to a complex medical treatment–which is why scientists are developing ways to create “virtual twins”: Custom models of a patient’s anatomy that allow a treatment to be simulated before it’s ever tried out on the patient.

As New Scientist reports, one virtual model developed at Université Libre de Bruxelles replicates a person’s gait. It’ll soon be trailed, as a away of analyzing the effects of wasting conditions such as cerebral palsy. Meanwhile, at University College London, computer scientists are creating custom blood-flow simulations, and researchers at the University of Oxford are modeling blood as it flows through a beating heart. The goal is to see how a new drug, for example, affects vital blood flow. And the ultimate aim? As one scientist argues, advances in computing power will ultimately yield virtual twins that can replace the need for complex and drawn out animal testing for new drugs.

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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