Cardiologists Use 3-D Printing to Personalize Treatment for Heart Disease

University of Melbourne doctors and engineers are using supercomputers to create 3D models from patients with heart disease, with photos from a camera thinner than a human hair. The images, gathered during a routine angiogram, are fed into a supercomputer. Within 24 hours, a model of a person’s artery is 3D printed. This gives cardiologists crucial information about the behaviour of blood flow and the precise structure of the artery from the inside.

It also helps them make decisions about the best stent (the device used to hold open a collapsed or blocked artery) to insert.

The technique can also detect ‘hot spots’ for plaque, the waxy substance that builds up in arteries and causes heart disease. Some of these plaques have been difficult to find using traditional techniques.

The potential use of supercomputers for personalised medicine is described in an academic paper published today in the European Heart Journal.

Heart disease remains the number one killer in Australia, affecting one in every six adults.. Every nine minutes, a person suffers a heart attack. New techniques to predict plaque build up in the heart will be essential to reduce this toll.

Lead author, University of Melbourne Associate Professor Peter Barlis, is an interventional cardiologist with St Vincent's and Northern Hospitals.

"Using our ultrasensitive heart scans combined with models derived using supercomputers, we are now able to print out segments of the patient's arteries and hope to tailor devices to fit them perfectly," Assoc Prof Barlis said.

"No two arteries are shaped the same. We're all different, with arteries that have different branches and sizes, tapering from larger to smaller. And much like debris accumulates along a riverbank, plaque can cling to certain areas of a person's artery. So this technology really gives us a clearer picture of those areas.

"We ideally want to use models to predict the best type of stent for a patient. Once this process is streamlined, we can have a patient on the table and an artery 3D printed and modeled to guide the procedure."

Identifying which plaques go on to cause a heart attack remains the 'holy grail' of cardiology.

"Using a super-high resolution camera, known as optical coherence tomography (OCT), to scan the insides of the heart arteries has made it easier to image cholesterol plaques, but it still isn't clear which of these plaques will go on to cause heart attacks.

"If we can identify these high-risk plaques more accurately and much earlier, we may be able to prevent heart attacks before they occur."

Associate Professor Barlis introduced OCT to Australia in 2009 and has been refining the technology to benefit cardiac patients since. He says 3D modelling has very promising potential to predict where plaques could form and will ultimately help cardiologists predict heart attacks.

Co-author and University of Melbourne researcher Dr Vikas Thondapu says the clues about dangerous cholesterol plaques lie in certain disturbances in blood flow patterns.

"Our work involves using supercomputers to simulate blood flow in the arteries. The goal is to use blood flow patterns and disturbances to potentially predict the future development of high-risk plaques," Dr Thondapu said.

Assoc Prof Barlis and his team now have two ARC grants to work with the University's Engineering School, to find a biocompatible polymer to 3D print heart stents to precisely match a person's physical makeup, reducing the risk of stent collapse or complications.

They are also interested in new polymers that will allow the stent to slowly disintegrate over time and that can deliver drugs directly to the location of the plaque.

The Imperial College in London and Harvard University in Boston are collaborating with the University of Melbourne on this pioneering research.

Vikas Thondapu, Christos V. Bourantas, Nicolas Foin, Ik-Kyung Jang, Patrick W. Serruys, Peter Barlis
Biomechanical stress in coronary atherosclerosis: emerging insights from computational modelling
European Heart Journal Feb 2016, DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehv689

Most Popular Now

Digital Games Improve Mental Health …

Digital games can effectively teach refugee children much-needed skills - including a new language, cognitive skills, and coding - while also improving their mental health, finds research by New York...

Transforming eHealth into a Political an…

eHealth has quickly become a symbol of the democratization of healthcare, as well as an opportunity to meet the challenges caused by an ageing society, the epidemic of non-communicable and...

Philips Expands its uGrow Digital Parent…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, today announced that it has acquired Health & Parenting Ltd, a leading London-based developer of healthcare and family-related...

Digital Health Ambitions in East Ireland…

St Michael’s Hospital achieved a significant milestone in East Ireland's journey towards digitally enabled healthcare last week by going live with an electronic patient management system in its Emergency Department...

Roche Acquires mySugr to Form a Leading …

Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) and mySugr have signed an agreement under which Roche acquired all shares of mySugr GmbH. Counting more than one million users globally, mySugr is...

RELIEF Project Launches a Call for Tende…

The RELIEF project, coordinated by BravoSolution Spain, is looking for innovative ICT solutions to improve the self-management of chronic pain patients. The call for tenders is now open until the...

Saving Lives with IoT Technology

Tejre Tobiassen suffered from a cardio arrest. During his rehabilitation, Tejre came up with the idea of an intelligent wearable that could help prevent cardio arrest and other life threatening...

Self-Driving Cars may Soon Be Able to Ma…

Can a self-driving vehicle be moral, act like humans do, or act like humans expect humans to? Contrary to previous thinking, a ground-breaking new study has found for the first...

Siemens Healthineers Now the Official Me…

The new season of the Bundesliga, Germany's national soccer league, marks the start of a three-year partnership between Siemens Healthineers and the renowned championship team FC Bayern Munich. From July...

Researchers Study Link between Pokémon G…

Pokémon GO's worldwide release sent crowds hiking through parks, meandering into streets and walking for miles in search of Pokémon, those cute little digital characters that appear in real locations...

The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC…

This Wednesday, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) launched the first academic centre in southern Europe specializing in eHealth, the eHealth Center, at an act held in the Sala Europa...

Wirral University Teaching Hospital impl…

Blood cancer patients are receiving the very best care at Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH) supported by pioneering technology which is the first of its kind in the UK. Patient...