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HPC and Simulation Enabling Breakthroughs in Cardiovascular Science


Bill Mannel.jpg

Guest blog by Bill Mannel, Bill Mannel, VP & GM – HPC, Big Data & IoT Solutions, HPE Servers

Heart disease is an indiscriminate killer that claims the lives of 610,000 Americans of varying ages, ethnicities, and geographies each year. Despite all of the recent advancements in medical science, heart disease remains the #1 cause of death among both men and women, representing one in every four deaths in the United States.

Perhaps the prevalence of heart disease is because the percentage of aging Americans continues to steadily climb. 11,000 baby boomers become eligible for Medicare daily, a key reason why our 65-and-over population is projected to nearly double over the next three decades. The overall complexity of the human heart is another factor – the heart is an extremely complicated organ driven by a mix of mechanical, electrical, and fluid behaviors that are extremely difficult to model.

The CDC forecasts that by 2030, annual direct medical costs associated with cardiovascular diseases will rise to more than $818 billion. These exorbitant medical costs combined with the annual loss of life are making new devices, therapies, and procedures for the treatment of heart disease more critical than ever.

However, there are major challenges for the medical community particularly for treating cardiovascular disease. The intricate and constantly changing properties of the human heart make accurate modeling a difficult task, and traditional methods of testing new devices and treatments have grown outdated and expensive. Animal testing, once one of the most popular testing methods, is now increasingly viewed as cruel and not particularly effective for the prediction of human outcomes. In the medical device market, 95% of new devices are never tested on humans, resulting in a high incidence of device recalls over the last few years.

The ability to model and analyze various parts of a constantly beating heart is no small feat. However, a research initiative called the Living Heart Project has produced the world’s first 3D realistic simulation model of a whole human heart, which is enabling researchers to develop more effective medical devices, drugs, and procedures for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. 

Computer-driven simulation is proven to have positive effects on product quality and performance for a wide range of businesses; just look at what simulation has accomplished for industries like automotive, aerospace, and industrial manufacturing. Imagine if surgeons could leverage these same capabilities to predict the success rates of new surgical procedures before ever picking up a scalpel – how many more medical devices would succeed if they could first be tested on virtual patients before application in the real world?  

Simulation and modeling capabilities are driving improvements to both product development and patient care in the treatment of heart disease:

  • Predictive modeling can show how heart conditions are likely to progress, allowing physicians to diagnose heart conditions earlier and intervene with medical treatment before a heart attack occurs.
  • New cardiovascular devices can be approved more quickly without the need for costly physical prototypes or lengthy clinical trials.
  • Models can be tested under varying conditions early in the design process to make changes on-the-fly before the testing phase.
  • Data from a specific patient’s CT scan or MRI can help create a unique model of that patient’s heart, which can then be used to virtually test potential treatments.

High performance computing technologies are a key enabler of the highly realistic simulations that are driving improvements to patient care and treatment outcomes. The exponential growth of HPC is making the ability to model the complex behavior of the human heart a reality for the mainstream medical community, and is providing researchers volumes of valuable, real-time information, which will enable better data-driven care decisions.

HPC modeling and simulation solutions are at the very core of the breakthrough capabilities of the modern medical community, offering endless possibilities not only for scientific discovery but for an increased quality of life.

About the Author


I am a Senior Manager managing external content and social media for HPE Servers Awareness. Stay tuned for topics on Mission Critical Solutions, Core Enterprise and SMB Solutions, Next Gen Workload Solutions, Big Data and HPC, Cloudline and HPS Options! Follow me @RubyD_Nich

Wolfgang Gentzsch

Supporting Bill's conclusion that "HPC technologies are a key enabler of the highly realistic simulations that are driving improvements to patient care and treatment outcomes", Stanford's Living Matter Laboratory just recently achieved a breakthrough in living heart simulations:

 Prof. Ellen Kuhl, Head of Living Matter Laboratory at Stanford University: “Our successful partnership with UberCloud has allowed us to perform virtual drug testing using realistic human heart models. For us, UberCloud’s high-performance cloud computing environment and the close collaboration with HPE, Dassault, and Advania, were critical to speed-up our simulations, which help us to identify the arrhythmic risk of existing and new drugs in the benefit of human health."

More about this breakthrough here: