Engineers Create a Digital Human for Medical Experiments

Sergey Makarov

Principal investigator Sergey Makarov with the Virtual Human displayed on the screen behind him

A new virtual human body will allow researchers to perform medical experiments without using any real people. The highly detailed virtual model was created in Massachusetts by a team of electrical and computer engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) who collaborated with faculty at nearby Harvard Medical School. Unlike clinical trials with real patient volunteers, conducting experiments on the model is easier to set up, less expensive, and most importantly, it doesn’t put any actual humans at risk.

The model is made of high-resolution color photographs of 5,000 thin slices of an actual human cadaver from a woman who had donated her body to science. The WPI team, led by professor Sergey Makarov,  used a variety of image processing techniques to digitize and combine the images to make a detailed 3D virtual human body. Then the “body” was transformed into a finite element model that contains information about the location and characteristics of the tissues. Most of the experiments being done with the model are virtual, but the data can also be used to create a CAD model that can be 3D printed.

The model gives researchers a detailed view of the body’s organs and systems so they can study how a real body would respond to treatments and medical procedures. This way, they can experiment with new treatments that would be too risky to test on a person. Researchers have already used to the model to investigate potentially dangerous medical scenarios, such as what would happen if a patient with a metal implant such as a preplacement joint is placed in an MRI scanner. The WPI team is also using the model to explore treating Parkinson’s disease with electrical stimulation and to experiment with an antenna for treating tumors with electromagnetic radiation. The researchers are now seeking to license the virtual human software and make it available to research universities and other medical groups.

Source: WPI

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.