Nav: Home

Detailed digital human models could hold key to future clinical research

May 04, 2016

Computer simulations of disease processes and detailed digital models of our organs could provide more accurate monitoring and outcome measurements for clinical trials, according to research being presented in Sheffield today.

Delegates at this year's Insigneo Showcase (May 5, 2016 at The Octagon Centre in Sheffield) will hear how in silico medicine -- computer simulations of the human body and its disease processes -- can help improve diagnosis and prognosis for conditions like Parkinson's and pulmonary vascular disease. Although ultimately destined for the clinic, the technology looks likely to move quickly into use within clinical trials, as it can enable more effective monitoring of the impact of new drugs and treatments.

The University of Sheffield's Insigneo Institute is Europe's largest research centre dedicated to this innovative approach to medicine. The Insigneo Institute hosts an annual showcase bringing together some of the world's leading in silico experts, with clinical translation as the theme of this year's event.

At this year's Showcase, Dr Andy Swift, Insigneo Senior Clinical Research fellow, will present his work to develop a model of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) using MRI technology. Currently the condition is diagnosed by inserting a catheter into the patient, often in the neck or groin to test the pressure in the pulmonary artery. It's an invasive test that can be distressing to the patient.

Dr Swift and his team have developed a non-invasive test that uses MRI scan data to quantify changes that occur in the heart and provide an equivalent pressure reading. His model combines data on hypertrophy (the thickening of the heart muscle of the right ventricle), distortion of the septum (the wall which separates the right and left ventricles), distortion of the artery and the forward and backward flow waves in the pulmonary artery.

In a recent study of data from 450 patients, researchers were able to use the model to diagnose PAH accurately.

"Two-thirds of the patients we assessed could be correctly diagnosed with PAH using our model, which meant only those patients where diagnosis was unclear would have had to have the catheter test if this was in full clinical use," said Dr Swift. "Many clinical trials in pulmonary hypertension also use the catheter test as an outcome measure, but it could provide a significant advantage to be able to replace it with a less invasive MRI scan, as our model also provides more detailed information on physical changes to the heart itself."

At the showcase, Dr Swift will discuss the role of modelling data from MRI in patients treated at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, where there are no objective measures of disease progression, is another area where in silico medicine could be used in a trial setting to test the effectiveness of new treatments.

Insigneo Senior Clinical Fellow Dr Alisdair McNeill will present his work on the use of gait analysis to develop a model able to assess disease progression in neurological disorders. He is working initially with patients with 22q11 deletion syndrome (a chromosomal defect), who are at high risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

"There are known to be changes to gait that are linked to Parkinson's disease, such as shortening of step length," said Dr McNeill. "Our model will use data including walking speed, step length and rhythm of walking plus other parameters to see if we can pick up changes as the disease progresses or at risk individuals develop Parkinsonism. Although this type of analysis is less likely to be easily translated to the clinic, it could be very effective for clinical trials, as so many of the current tests for progression of Parkinson's disease and impact of treatments are very subjective and not sensitive to changes in clinical state."

In addition to presentations on the latest research from the Insigneo Institute, the Showcase will also feature presentations and debates involving some of the most prestigious names in in silico medicine from across the world, including Frederic Turquier (Director, Research and Development, Surgical Innovations, Medtronic); Norbert Graf (Professor in Paediatric Oncology, University of Saarland, Germany); and Peter Varga, (Director, National Center for Spinal Disorders, Budapest, Hungary).

Marco Viceconti, Executive Director at the Insigneo Institute said: "At the Insigneo Institute, our work aims to use the speed and accuracy of digital modelling to bring substantial benefits, both to clinical care and clinical trials."

The Insigneo Institute is at the forefront of clinical translation -- ensuring that the developments in the laboratory benefit patients as quickly as possible.

"In the future, such detailed digital models of diseases and the structure of organs could be used to help diagnose conditions, understand the impact of surgical interventions and even run digital drug trials. The presentations and debates at this year's Insigneo Showcase show how both research and industry are moving closer towards this goal." Marco added.

University of Sheffield

Related Clinical Trials Articles:

Giving children a voice in clinical trials
Children as young as 8 years old with incurable cancer can reliably characterize the impact an experimental therapy has on their symptoms and quality of life -- even at the earliest stages of drug development -- making self-reported patient outcomes a potential new clinical trial endpoint.
Better health for women involved in clinical trials
Women who participate in obstetric and gynecology clinical trials experience improved health outcomes compared to those who are not involved in trials, according to research by Queen Mary University of London.
Final artificial pancreas clinical trials now open
Clinical trials are now enrolling to provide the final tests for a University of Virginia-developed artificial pancreas to automatically monitor and regulate blood-sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes.
Why the bar needs to be raised for human clinical trials
Standards for authorizing first-time trials of drugs in humans are lax, and should be strengthened in several ways, McGill University researchers argue in a paper published today in Nature.
New drug formulary will help expedite use of agents in clinical trials
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) today launched a new drug formulary (the 'NCI Formulary') that will enable investigators at NCI-designated Cancer Centers to have quicker access to approved and investigational agents for use in preclinical studies and cancer clinical trials.
Review examines diversity in dermatology clinical trials
Racial and ethnic groups can be underrepresented in medical research.
Reshaping the future of global clinical trials practice
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have developed a new international guideline to help standardize how results from clinical trial studies are reported.
Fewer cardiovascular drugs being studied in clinical trials
The number of cardiovascular drugs in the research pipeline has declined across all phases of development in the last 20 years even as cardiovascular disease has become the No.
Sex hormones skew outcomes in clinical trials -- here's how
Clinical research often excludes females from their trials under the assumption that 'one size fits all,' that a painkiller or antidepressant will be equally effective in subjects of either sex, but a growing number of scientists are criticizing this approach.
Nearly half of pediatric clinical trials go unfinished or unpublished
Clinical trials in children commonly go either uncompleted or unpublished, finds a comprehensive study conducted by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital.

Related Clinical Trials Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".