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 Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, measurements of blood flow and blood pressure in the coronary arteries - which feed the heart muscles - and Electrocardiograms (ECGs).
These computer models will integrate the behaviour 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 modelling and computing to improve the care of patients with heart disease", stated Professor Reza Razavi, the Project's Clinical Co-ordinator who is also Professor of Paediatric Cardiovascular Science and Head of the Division of Imaging Sciences at King's College London in London, the 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 modelling 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 programme. "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."
Within the multi-disciplinary euHeart consortium, the University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom is the scientific co-ordinator of the project, while King's College London, London, United Kingdom leads the clinical programme. The approximately 14 million euro provided by the European Union comes from the European Union's 7th Framework Programme. 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.
The euHeart Consortium membership includes the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Berlin Heart, Germany; the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Germany; HemoLab, The 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, The 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; and Volcano Europe SA/NV, Belgium.
Royal Philips Electronics of The Netherlands is a diversified Health and Well-being company, focused on improving people's lives through timely innovations. As a world expert in health care, lifestyle and lighting, Philips integrates technologies and design into people-centric solutions, based on fundamental customer insights and the brand promise of "sense and simplicity". Headquartered in The Netherlands, Philips employs approximately 133.000 employees in more than 60 countries worldwide. With sales of 27 billion euro in 2007, the company is a market specialist in cardiac care, acute care and home health care, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications, as well as lifestyle products for personal well-being and pleasure with strong leadership positions in flat TV, male shaving and grooming, portable entertainment and oral health care.
For more information on the euHeart project, you can visit the euHeart project page. More information on the parallel HeartCycle project is available in the VMW March 2008 article Philips led HeartCycle project targets improvement of disease management and quality of life for heart patients.