Research, a ‘digital twin’ to test tailor-made care for stroke patients

by time news

2023-12-07 18:56:03

A digital twin who ‘immolates’ himself to save the patient with an ongoing brain heart attack or hemorrhage, having the best treatment for his flesh-and-blood alter ego tested on himself. It sounds like a science fiction film, but researchers at the Umc (University Medical Centers) in Amsterdam aim to make it a reality in 6 years. The scientists have received a Horizon program grant, worth 10 million euros, from the European Commission, and will lead 19 partners on the mission.

For years, experts explain, researchers have used computers to simulate the design of maps and airplane flights. Racing driver Max Verstappen enters a simulator before entering his real Formula 1 car and Henk Marquering, professor of Translational Artificial Intelligence at UMC in Amsterdam, wants to bring these simulators into the field of medicine. “Strangely, the computer simulations in our work are far from the norm, despite having the potential to be an incredibly valuable tool,” he highlights. “With this project, we aim to test the treatment for individual stroke patients first on a digital twin. Doctors can see in the simulation which strategy works and which doesn’t.”

In addition to the 10 million euros from the EU, two Swiss project partners and one from Taiwan contribute a total of 3 million euros. And each partner from 12 countries contributes some of their expertise in the field of computer simulation and medicine. As for the ‘digital twins’ protagonists of the project, they are not “an animation – points out Alfons Hoekstra, professor of computational sciences at the University of Amsterdam – but real calculations. We insert blood pressure, heart rate, scan information brain and other medical data of the stroke patient. Then a sort of ‘digital twin’ is generated on which we can simulate treatments.”

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A concrete example is the removal of a blood clot in the event of a cerebral infarction. By running simulations, doctors can see whether a specific treatment will leave a patient’s blood clot intact or disintegrate it. “By simulating the process, the patient receives the optimal treatment,” says Charles Majoie, professor of neuroradiology at UMC in Amsterdam. “We are now finding out what is good for the individual patient. The more measurements we can put into the digital twin, the more precisely we can predict what the best treatment will be,” adds Hoekstra.

This way of feeding data into a computer model is also known as knowledge-based artificial intelligence, and uses in-depth biological and medical knowledge of strokes. This is different from data-driven AI, which simply looks at large amounts of data and uses data from many previous patients to make predictions. “It’s a new discipline that we practice here. We combine computer data with the physical and biological knowledge we have. Computer scientists and doctors work together to make this possible,” says Hoekstra.

Over the next 4 years, researchers will work on technology that will enable the creation of a digital twin. Once this technology is operational, it will take another 2 years or so to turn it into a computer simulation that can be used in practice. In this way doctors will soon be able to use their computers to identify the most suitable treatment method for their patients. “A treatment that has been tested virtually for the first time on your digital twin? Now it is truly a tailor-made treatment,” concludes Marquering.

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