Virtual Humans are the New Frontier of Biomedicine

By March 19, 2008

Hi-tech advancements in Biomedicine could reduce animal testing and lead to improved human medical treatment. Scientists are now studying ways to test new treatments for HIV and brain disorders by using virtual humans on comput

ers and “labs on a chip” reports

University College London scientists, for one, are presently defining a new way to simulate the internal workings of the human body through a super computer linked to networks of computers around the world.

Known as Virtual Physiological Human (VPH), the computer simulation could provide doctors with faster and more refined treatments for patients. HIV patients who have developed resistance to a form of drug treatment, for example, could benefit from the research as doctors are better able to find replacement therapy.

“I would predict that this century is going to be dominated by our ability to handle biomedical problems in a computational domain,” said Peter Coveney, director of the Centre for Computational Science at University College London, also reported on

Andre Levchenko is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and an affiliated researcher with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He and his colleagues are using plastic-like chips or “labs on chips” to understand the billions of neurons in the brain and how they react to various signals.

“After a stroke, a huge part of the brain tissue may become disabled,” Levchenko said. “If one understands how this network is put together in the first place, it’s possible to predict what should be done to put the tissue back into place after the trauma.”

The chips could eventually be used by scientists to engineer basic brain tissue or to explain the complicated interactions between different cell types such as neurons and muscle cells.

These advancements in Biomedicine, should they work the way researchers hope, could lead to less reliance on animal testing and better personalized medicine, and more importantly a greater understanding of the complexity of the human body.

By Kathleen Clark

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