Virtual Physiological Human
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The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) is a methodological and technological framework that, once established, will enable collaborative investigation of the human body as a single complex system. The collective framework will make it possible to share resources and observations formed by institutions and organizations creating disparate, but integrated computer models of the mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of a living human body.
- Descriptive. The framework should allow observations made in laboratories, hospitals and the field, at a variety of locations situated anywhere in the world, to be collected, catalogued, organized, shared and combined in any possible way.
- Integrative. The framework should enable experts to analyse these observations collaboratively and develop systemic hypotheses that involve the knowledge of multiple scientific disciplines.
- Predictive. The framework should make it possible to interconnect predictive models defined at different scales, with multiple methods and varying levels of detail, into systemic networks that solidify those systemic hypotheses; it should also make it possible to verify their validity by comparison with other clinical or laboratory observations.
The framework is formed by large collections of anatomical, physiological, and pathological data stored in digital format, by predictive simulations developed from these collections, and by services intended to support researchers in the creation and maintenance of these models, as well as in the creation of end-user technologies to be used in the clinical practice. Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) models aim to integrate physiological processes across different length and time scales (multi-scale modelling). These models make possible the combination of patient-specific data with population-based representations. The objective is to develop a systemic approach which avoids a reductionist approach and seeks not to subdivide biological systems in any particular way by dimensional scale (body, organ, tissue, cells, molecules), by scientific discipline (biology, physiology, biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology, bioengineering) or anatomical sub-system (cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, etc.).
History of Virtual Physiological Human (VPH)
The initial concepts that brought to the Virtual Physiological Human came from the IUPS physiome project. The IUPS physiome project was formed in 1997, and was the first worldwide effort to define the physiome through the development of databases and models which facilitated the understanding of the integrative function of cells, organs, and organisms. The project focused on compiling and providing a central repository of databases, linking experimental information and computational models from many laboratories into a single, self-consistent framework.
The Physiome is the quantitative and integrated description of the functional behaviour of the physiological state of an individual or species.
Following the launch of the Physiome Project, there were many other worldwide initiatives of loosely coupled actions all focusing on the development of methods for modelling and simulation of human pathophysiology. In 2005, an expert workshop of the Physiome was held as part of the Functional Imaging and Modelling of the Heart Conference in Barcelona where a White Paper was created. The paper was entitled 'Towards Virtual Physiological Human: Multilevel modelling and simulation of the human anatomy and physiology'. The goal of this paper was to shape a clear overview of on-going relevant VPH activities, to build a consensus on how they can be complemented by new initiatives for researchers in the EU and to identify possible mid-term and long term research challenges.
In 2006, the European Commission funded a coordination and support action entitled STEP: Structuring The EuroPhysiome. The STEP consortium promoted a very large consensus process that involved more than 300 stakeholders including researchers, industry experts, policy makers, clinicians, etc. The prime result of this process was a booklet entitled Seeding the EuroPhysiome: A Roadmap to the Virtual Physiological Human. The STEP action and the resulting research roadmap were instrumental in the development of the concept of Virtual Physiological Human here provided, and in the initiation of much larger process that involves significant research funding, large collaborative projects, and a number of connected initiatives, not only in Europe but also in the United States, Japan, and China.
The Virtual Physiological Human now forms a core target of the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, and aims to support the development of patient-specific computer models and their application in personalised and predictive healthcare. The Virtual Physiological Human Network of Excellence VPH NoE aims to connect the various VPH projects within the 7th Framework Programme.
Aim of the Virtual Physiological Human
VPH related projects have received substantial funding from the European Commission in order to further scientific progress in this area. The European Commission is insistent that VPH-related projects demonstrate strong industrial participation and clearly indicate a route from basic science into clinical practice. In the future, it is hoped that the VPH will eventually lead to a better healthcare system which aims to have the following benefits:
- personalized care solutions
- reduced need for experiments on animals
- more holistic approach to medicine
- preventative approach to treatment of disease
Personalized care solutions are a key aim of the VPH, with new modelling environments for predictive, individualized healthcare to result in better patient safety and drug efficacy. It is anticipated that the VPH could also result in healthcare improvement through greater understanding of pathophysiological processes. The use of biomedical data from a patient to simulate potential treatments and outcomes could prevent the patient from experiencing unnecessary or ineffective treatments. The use of in silico (by computer simulation) modelling and testing of drugs could also reduce the need for experiments on animals.
A future goal is that there will be also be a more holistic approach to medicine with the body treated as a single multi organ system rather than as a collection of individual organs. Advanced integrative tools should further help to improve the European healthcare system on a number of different levels that include diagnosis, treatment and care of patients and in particular quality of life.
The Virtual Physiological Human is in conclusion a framework of methods and technologies that once fully established will make possible Personalised, Predictive, and Integrative medicine.
- Human anatomy
- Living Human Project
- VPHOP (Osteoporotic Virtual Physiological Human)
- EuResist (Integrated system for the clinical management of antiretroviral drug resistance)
- Virtual Physiological Rat
- In silico clinical trials
- Clapworthy et al. 2007
- According to the STEP research road map Archived August 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Fenner JW, Brook B, Clapworthy G, Coveney PV, Feipel V, Gregersen H, et al. (2008). "The EuroPhysiome, STEP and a roadmap for the virtual physiological human.". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 366 (1878): 2979–99. doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0089. PMID 18559316.
- Viceconti M, Taddei F, Van Sint Jan S, Leardini A, Cristofolini L, Stea S, et al. (2008). "Multiscale modelling of the skeleton for the prediction of the risk of fracture.". Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon) 23 (7): 845–52. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2008.01.009. PMID 18304710.
- Clapworthy G, Viceconti M, Coveney PV, Kohl P (2008). "The virtual physiological human: building a framework for computational biomedicine I. Editorial.". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 366 (1878): 2975–8. doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0103. PMID 18559315.
- STEP research road map Archived August 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Hunter PJ, Borg TK (2003). "Integration from proteins to organs: the Physiome Project.". Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 4 (3): 237–43. doi:10.1038/nrm1054. PMID 12612642.
- NSR Physiome Project
- Ayache N, Boissel JP, Brunak S, Clapworthy G, Lonsdale G, Fingberg J, Frangi A, Deco G, Hunter P, Nielsen P, Halstead M, Hose R, Magnin I, Martin-Sanchez F, Sloot P, Kaandorp J, Hoekstra A, Van Sint Jan S, Viceconti M (November 2005). "Towards virtual physiological human: Multilevel modelling and simulation of the human anatomy and physiology" (PDF). edited by DG INFSO & DG JRC.
- 7th Framework Programme
- Kohl P, Noble D (2009). "Systems biology and the virtual physiological human.". Mol Syst Biol 5 (1): 292. doi:10.1038/msb.2009.51. PMC 2724980. PMID 19638973.
- Sadiq SK, Mazzeo MD, Zasada SJ, Manos S, Stoica I, Gale CV, et al. (2008). "Patient-specific simulation as a basis for clinical decision-making.". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 366 (1878): 3199–219. doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0100. PMID 18573758.
- Clapworthy, G., Kohl, P., Gregerson, H., Thomas, S., Viceconti, M., Hose, D., Pinney, D., Fenner, J., McCormack, K., Lawford, P., Van Sint Jan, S., Waters, S., & Coveney, P. 2007, "Digital Human Modelling: A Global Vision and a European Perspective," In Digital Human Modelling: A Global Vision and a European Perspective, Berlin: Springer, pp. 549–558.
- Hunter, P.J. 2006. Modeling living systems: the IUPS/EMBS Physiome project. Proceedings IEEE, 94, 678-991
- Viceconti, M., Testi, D., Taddei, F., Martelli, S., Clapworthy, G. J., Van Sint Jan, S., 2006. Biomechanics Modeling of the Musculoskeletal Apparatus: Status and Key Issues. Proceedings of the IEEE 94(4), 725-739.
- Operating on the Virtual Human BBC news feature on Heart Surgery as part of the VPH Initiative (January 2009)