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

Augmented Reality Visor to Dramatically …

Employing new photonics technology, European scientists are developing a new Augmented Reality surgical visor in a bid to improve accuracy of interventions, showing anaesthetic and medical data while superimposing a...

Read more

Interactive Health Apps May Inspire Heal…

Just like real doctors and nurses, online health tools with good - but controlled - communication skills can promote healthier lifestyles, according to researchers. However, if their tone is conversational...

Read more

Call for Papers: EHB 2017 - IEEE Interna…

22 - 24 June 2017, Sinaia, Romania. The 6-th edition of the International Conference on e-Health and Bioengineering, EHB 2017, will take place in the city of Sinaia, Romania. This year...

Read more

UK and Italian Health Tech Firms to Help…

Data sharing ambitions set out in newly published sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) have been given a boost by a new strategic partnership between data management specialist Stalis and Italy's...

Read more

From Health Apps to Nursing Robots - A G…

25 - 27 April 2017, Berlin, Germany. Around the world the subject of e-Health is steadily gaining in importance, whether it involves electronic patient files, online video consultations or any of...

Read more

Philips Teams Up with German Startup One…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, today announced a partnership agreement with German digital health company Onelife Health to jointly develop innovative connected health...

Read more

EU eHealth Competition 2017

The eHealth Competition is an initiative that rewards the best eHealth / mHealth solutions produced by European SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). Its objective is to support business success of...

Read more

Philips and LabPON Plan to Create World…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) and LabPON, the first clinical laboratory to transition to 100% histopathology digital diagnosis, have announced its plans to create a digital database of massive...

Read more

Virtual Reality Cognitive Training Game …

Greek researchers demonstrated the potential of a self-administered virtual supermarket cognitive training game for remotely detecting mild cognitive impairment (MCI), without the need for an examiner, among a sample of...

Read more

Technology Boost for Health and Social C…

Health and social care organisations aiming to be fully compliant with the government’s Personalised Health and Care 2020 plan, can now access electronic health record (EHR) and healthcare integration technologies...

Read more

Agfa HealthCare's Health Management Pla…

Agfa HealthCare announces today that its health management platform, including the XERO universal image viewer, has been selected to support the joint Radiotherapy Treatment Project of the Saolta University Health...

Read more

Philips Introduces Advanced Radiology So…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, has unveiled new advanced radiology solutions at the 2017 European Congress of Radiology (ECR). In response to today's...

Read more
(HEALTH IT) SPACE - Take a look at who has just Joined