- In a world first, a compelling, complex and beautiful large-scale virtual model of a human heart is now on display in the Science Museum;
- Created by bioengineer Dr Jazmín Aguado Sierra using scans of her own heart, the virtual heart functions just like her real heart and shows the intricate interactions between electrical impulses, muscle contraction and blood flow in this vital organ;
- Visitors can see the Virtual Heart display, which Dr Aguado Sierra introduces, within the Engineers gallery, in a section which explores collaborations between clinicians, medical engineers and patients and showcases real-world health solutions;
- The Virtual Heart simulation was made using data and the high-performance supercomputer MareNostrum based at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, which takes 9 hours to calculate the mathematics behind the model. The same job would take a human 57 billion years;
- The virtual heart, and wider research into digital medicine, have huge ramifications for the future of predictive and personalised medicine and disease monitoring, transforming how we could treat illness in the future.
Virtual Heart, Engineers gallery
images from the gallery
Today a complex and beautiful simulation of a beating human heart was unveiled in the Engineers gallery at the Science Museum. Created by bioengineer Dr Jazmín Aguado Sierra using scans of her own heart, it shows the complex interactions between electrical impulses, muscle contraction and blood flow in the heart - a feat only possible using supercomputer power.
Dr Aguado Sierra used her own data captured from sources including electrocardiographs that measured electrical impulses and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of her heart tissues. The anatomical data was then inputted into mathematical equations that described her heart’s workings and her virtual heart was brought to life by MareNostrum, a high-performance supercomputer based at Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), which reproduced her heart in remarkable detail.
The simulation contains 5 billion data values, with each snapshot of her virtual heart changing every hundred thousandth of a second, which operate at different length scales using distinct types of physics. If a human attempted the calculations and analysis, it would take almost 57 billion years. But using MareNostrum and complex mathematical techniques employed by Dr Aguado Sierra and her colleagues, just 9 hours is needed.
The new model builds on earlier research and allows us to better understand this vital organ which beats 100,000 times a day to supply oxygen around the body. The calculations can be adjusted to simulate different heart conditions, showing why a heart beats too fast, too slow or irregularly. Doctors and researchers can also test treatments before they are used on patients, and in the future, digital twins of entire bodies could be made, transforming how we could predict, diagnose and treat illness.
images from the gallery view part 2
Bioengineer Dr Jazmín Aguado Sierra from Barcelona Supercomputing Center said: ‘The first time I saw my heart pumping it was fascinating! The fact that you can see it live on your screen being solved by a computer – that is you, and every characteristic is describing yourself. Supercomputing is changing the way modelling works and having access to my own data enriches the model that much faster. The more I learn about my heart, the more I will be able to produce new protocols or new tests which is exciting for the future of predictive and personalised medicine.’
Dr Roger Highfield, Science Director, Science Museum Group, and coauthor of the book Virtual You, said: 'All sorts of virtual organs are now being developed, with the heart the most sophisticated and personalised of all. We can do virtual tests of new drugs, recreate blood flow around the body, plan delicate epilepsy surgery on the brain, even create virtual breaths and sneezes, as well as help replace the use of animals in research. This work on digital twin technology, like our new Virtual Heart display, marks the dawn of truly personalised and predictive medicine.'
Real-world applications of this simulation range from clinical research, diagnosis of heart problems and testing new drugs, surgeries, and treatments. In the near future, learning algorithms could also analyse the performance of the heart as we age and recognise unusual patterns that may indicate a need for treatment long before we are even aware of it, forecasting disease.
The life size Virtual Heart display is featured within the Bodies section of the Engineers gallery. This section examines collaborations between clinicians, medical engineers and patients, and showcases real-world solutions that place people and their bodies at the heart of precision engineering practice.
The Engineers gallery opened in June 2023, marking ten years of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering – the world’s leading award for engineers. The gallery celebrates our engineering heritage and showcases innovations through the global lens of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering with current and past prize winners featured throughout. Engineers is generously supported by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (Major Funder) and MathWorks (Major Sponsor).
NOTES TO EDITORS
Dr Jazmín Aguado Sierra is a Barcelona Supercomputing Center researcher who is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICIN). She is also Scientific Consultant for ELEM Biotech, the biomedical simulation company spin off from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center.
Entry to the Engineers gallery is free. For further information or to book free museum entrance tickets, visit sciencemuseum.org.uk.
ABOUT THE SCIENCE MUSEUM
The Science Museum is part of the Science Museum Group, the world’s leading group of science museums that share a world-class collection providing an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Over the last century the Science Museum has grown in scale and scope, inspiring visitors with exhibitions covering topics as diverse as robots, codebreaking, cosmonauts and superbugs. The Science Museum was named a winner of the prestigious Art Fund Museum of the Year prize for 2020. www.sciencemuseum.org.uk. Follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
ABOUT BARCELONA SUPERCOMPUTING CENTER - CENTRO NACIONAL DE SUPERCOMPUTACIÓN (BSC-CNS)
BSC is the leading supercomputing center in Spain and the biggest supercomputing center in Europe. It specializes in high-performance computing with a dual role: providing infrastructure and a supercomputing service for Spanish and European scientists, and generating knowledge and technology to be transferred to society. BSC is a public consortium owned by the Spanish Government Ministry of Science and Innovation (60%), the Catalan Government Department of Research and Universities (30%) and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (10%). www.bsc.es
ABOUT THE QUEEN ELIZABETH PRIZE FOR ENGINEERING
Now awarded every year, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize) champions bold, ground-breaking engineering innovation which is of global benefit to humanity. The prize celebrates engineering’s visionaries, inspiring young minds to consider engineering as a career choice and to help to solve the challenges of the future. The prize also encourages engineers to help extend the boundaries of what is possible across all disciplines and applications. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering winner(s) are awarded a total cash prize of £500,000 and it is open to:
- Up to ten living individuals;
- Of any nationality;
- Who are personally responsible for a ground-breaking innovation in engineering which has been of global benefit to humanity. Self-nomination is not permitted.
MathWorks is the leading developer of mathematical computing software. MATLAB, the language of engineers and scientists, is a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numeric computation. Simulink is a block diagram environment for simulation and Model-Based Design of multidomain and embedded engineering systems. Engineers and scientists worldwide rely on these products to accelerate the pace of discovery, innovation, and development in automotive, aerospace, communications, electronics, industrial automation, and other industries. MATLAB and Simulink are fundamental teaching and research tools in the world’s top universities and learning institutions. Founded in 1984, MathWorks employs more than 5000 people in 16 countries, with headquarters in Natick, Massachusetts, USA. For additional information, visit mathworks.com.
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