Simulating the human condition in a digital age: Virtual Physiological Human 2014

VPH 2014Long before the availability of computers and technology, physiologists were using mathematical modelling to describe complex systems using physical and mathematical principles. Combining knowledge of physics with experimental observation, pioneering physiologists such as Poiseuille, Fick and Krogh were able to describe the physiological complexities of blood flow that were only confirmed through direct measurement decades after their initial description. As the digital age progresses and available computational power continues to increase, we now move towards a more detailed modelling approach aimed at using existing experimental data gathered from all around the world from both populations and individual patients to create a virtual representation of the human body. This concept, known as The Virtual Physiological Human, aims to lead to new, more predictive clinical technologies that allow for personalized medicine to be readily available. Continue reading

Highlights from the Center for Heart Failure Research Symposium

A couple weeks ago we highlighted hot topics from the congress of the European Society for Cardiology, the largest cardiology meeting in the world, which is organized to present the latest ground-breaking discoveries in medicine. On the other hand, such a large conference (nearly 30000 attendees!) lacks the capacity to promote face-to-face communication among researchers, specially those in early phases of their careers. For this purpose, local research associations organize smaller and centralized meetings, which is the case of the Norwegian Center for Heart Failure Research Symposium.

The Symposium provided an ideal environment for earlier career scientists in Norway (namely PhD candidates) to share their work and experiences with each other, stimulating valuable collaborations within the country. But it was not limited to that, since renowned senior scientists from top-ranked universities in the world were also there to contribute with their latest work. Following you find the highlights of the Symposium:

  • To start, the symposium offered an extremely organized structure and fantastic venue (Rica Holmenkollen Hotel in Oslo). The Symposium kick-off could not be better, with an extraordinary presentation by the 1998 Nobel Prize laureate Louis Ignarro, who brilliantly presented his life-long work on nitric oxide and cardiovascular protection, passing through his discovery of the mechanism behind the drug sildenafil (best known as Viagra), ending with hilarious stories involving his work and celebration of the Nobel Prize.

  • As a following session, PhD students and postdocs had the opportunity to present their work and to be evaluated by a board of specialists in different sub-areas – CERG postdoc Øivind Rognmo was one of the moderators. This session was, from my point of view, the most valuable of all, since all the presentations were yet unpublished and thereby novel discoveries by Norwegian institutions, which will hopefully be published soon in high-quality journals. CERG was of course there, with three presenters: Siri Marte Hollekim, Jose Bianco Moreira and Ida Beate Øyen Østhus.
  • Manuel Mayr from the King’s College London, showed his lab’s discoveries on novel biomarkers of cardiovascular diseases, with a strong potential to predict future cardiac events, which could be treated in advance if detected early.
  • Diastolic heart failure (when the heart has problems when filling up with blood) is now a great interest for us at CERG, so we could learn a lot from Dr. Javier Díez (Pamplona, Spain) about the heart stiffness, a major complication in patients with diastolic heart failure.
  • Deeper into the cardiac cells, Prof. Kinya Otsu (also from London) shared his fantastic work showing that poor-quality DNA from inside the mitochondria (the cell’s power house!) can cause inflammation and heart failure in mice. If confirmed in humans, these results can pave a road to novel drugs against cardiovascular diseases.
  • As part of the closing session, Dr. Geneviève Derumeaux from France went through her work to enhance non-invasive techniques to detect cardiac impairments and possible beneficial effects of drugs and non-pharmacological therapies, such as preconditioning.

Besides excellent scientific content, the symposium provided plenty “chat time” among researchers during coffee-breaks and between sessions, configuring an ideal atmosphere for informal discussions and interaction. We congratulate the Center for Heart Failure Research for the nice Symposium and wish to see even more CERG researchers there next year.

Jose Bianco N. Moreira, PhD student in CERG.