By targeting the diagnosis and treatment phases of the care cycles for heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, heart rhythm disorders, and congenital heart defects, the euHeart project complements the recently announced HeartCycle project, also led by Philips, which focuses on the long term management of chronic heart disease patients.
The euHeart consortium aims to develop advanced computer models of the human heart that can be personalized to patient-specific conditions using clinical data from various sources, such as CT (Computed Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans, measurements of blood flow and blood pressure in the coronary arteries (which feed the heart muscles) and ECGs (Electrocardiograms).
These computer models will integrate the behavior of the heart and the aorta at molecular, cellular, tissue and organ-level. They will also incorporate clinical knowledge about how cardiovascular disease disturbs the correct functioning of the heart at these levels. As a result, it may be possible to develop simulation tools that doctors can use to predict the outcome of different types of therapy, and because the models will be personalized to individual patients, the therapy could be equally personalized.
euHeart is a very exciting project that will bring together the latest advances in modeling and computing to improve the care of patients with heart disease, says Professor Reza Razavi, the Project’s Clinical Coordinator who is also Professor of Paediatric Cardiovascular Science and Head of the Division of Imaging Sciences at King’s College London (London, United Kingdom). “It may ultimately allow us to select and optimize the best treatment for individual patients.
As an example, one way of treating heart rhythm disorders is a minimally invasive procedure known as radio-frequency ablation. During this procedure, a catheter is inserted into the patient’s heart and the tissue responsible for propagating abnormal electrical signals through the heart muscle is destroyed using heat from a radio-frequency field generated at the tip of the catheter. At the moment, doctors have to rely on their experience to decide which areas of tissue to destroy – a task that is complicated by the fact that the electrical activity in every patient’s heart is subtly different. With the aid of a computerized model that reflects the patient’s unique heart structure and function, doctors may be able to test the results of destroying different areas of tissue before they have to operate on the patient.
The development of computer models that integrate structural and functional information of the heart and then personalize it to individual patients is a mammoth task that will require the multi-disciplinary effort of researchers with strong know-how in biophysical modeling and image processing, clinical experts, and engineers in the device and imaging industries, commented Henk van Houten, senior vice president of Philips Research and head of the Healthcare Research program. "In the euHeart project we are confident that we have brought together the necessary expertise and that we can make a real contribution to improving the treatment of one of the world’s killer diseases.
The euHeart consortium comprises public and private partners from 16 research, academic, industrial and medical organizations from six different European countries. It will run for four years and has a budget of approximately EUR 19 million, of which approximately EUR 14 million will be provided by the European Union as part of the EU 7th Framework Program. The project forms part of the Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) initiative – a collaborative effort that aims to produce a computer model of the entire human body so that it can be investigated as a single complex system.
Within the multidisciplinary euHeart consortium, the University of Oxford (Oxford, UK) is the scientific coordinator of the project, while King's College London (London, UK) leads the clinical program.
euHeart Consortium membership (in alphabetical order)
Academic Medical Center Amsterdam (Netherlands) : Berlin Heart (Germany) : Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (Germany) : HemoLab (Netherlands) : Hospital Clínico San Carlos de Madrid Insalud (Spain) : Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (France) : Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (France): King’s College London (United Kingdom) : Philips Healthcare (Netherlands, Spain) : Philips Research (Germany) : PolyDimensions (Germany) : Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain) : University of Karlsruhe (Germany) : University of Oxford (United Kingdom) : University of Sheffield (United Kingdom) : Volcano Europe SA/NV (Belgium).
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