According to the World Health Organization, more than 17 million people died from cardiovascular diseases globally in 2008, representing 30 percent of all global deaths. The American Heart Association report, “Forecasting the Future of Cardiovascular Disease in the United States”, predicts that direct medical costs of cardiovascular disease will reach $818.1 billion over the next three decades.

Fig. 1 – The simulation model, based on a patient’s actual heath physiology, shown projected onto a large screen, can be used to test and improve medical devices.
Using the latest advancements in simulation provided by SIMULIA applications to capture the electrical and mechanical behavior of the heart in the most realistic way, a multidisciplinary team of leading cardiovascular researchers and educators with medical device manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and practicing cardiologists have been working to develop and validate personalized digital human heart models and establish a unified foundation for in silico medicine. These models, they say, can serve as a core technology base for education and training, medical device design, testing, and regulatory science. (See Figure 1)

Dassault Systèmes, Europe’s second largest software company, along with researchers, doctors, and health regulators, recently unveiled this Living Heart Project, the first 3D, realistic, scientific simulation of the human heart. The simulation model, based on a patient’s actual heath physiology, can be used to test and improve medical devices and pave the way for better diagnoses, improved surgical techniques, and enhanced cardiac care.

While 3D designs of the human heart are not new, this project uses echocardiograms, MRI, and CT scan images, along with cardiac research data to create personalized 3D heart simulations to allow medical professionals to better understand how an individual patient’s heart may respond to a wide range of interventions, without the need for additional invasive diagnostic procedures.

Doctors can use a simulation of a normal heartbeat and modify it to reflect the behavior of the patient’s own heart as detected by an MRI or echocardiogram. If a portion of the heart was damaged after a heart attack, for instance, they would observe how the physics had changed and simulate various treatment options to ensure proper blood flow.

“We live in an exciting time with the capacity to simulate how a patient’s heart may respond to a wide range of interventions, sparing that individual and many others the uncertainties of their procedural outcome,“ states Dr. James C. Perry, Professor of Pediatrics at UC San Diego and Director of Electrophysiology and Adult CHD at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “This is true for those with congenital heart defects, whose lives necessarily include many cardiac procedures, but also for the larger population of people with heart failure, arrhythmias, and other structural abnormalities. This technology is a huge advancement that will expedite the translation of our basic scientific understanding of cardiac function into practical applications that promote improved health and safety.“

“The Living Heart Project is a leading example of the value and potential for realistic simulation to significantly impact healthcare in a positive way,” explained Bill Murray, President and CEO, Medical Device Innovation Consortium. “The Living Heart Project is a model for how collaborations can work to advance regulatory science in the medical device industry and improve patient access to cutting-edge medical technology.”

For more information on Dassault Systèmes and the Living Heart Project, visit .