15. January 2024

Digital Twins Improve Stroke Treatment Digital Twins Improve Stroke Treatment

EU providing over €10 million in funding to international project involving the University of Bonn

After someone has suffered a stroke or brain hemorrhage, it is a race against time to prevent their brain cells from dying. Admittedly, it still sounds like science fiction: physicians are using a digital twin to test out the most promising potential treatments for precisely this scenario. However, if all goes to plan for the researchers in the European consortium christened “Gemini” (“twin” in Latin), this could be a reality in as little as six years. The 19 partners led by Amsterdam University Medical Center (UMC) have received a Horizon grant worth €10 million from the European Commission to tackle the project. The Department of (Social) Ethics in the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Bonn is also involved in the work. 

Professor Matthias Braun
Professor Matthias Braun - from the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Bonn. © Photo: Gregor Hübl/University of Bonn
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Researchers have simulated the design of cars, aircraft and the like on computers for many years now, but the Gemini consortium now wants to use technologies like these in medicine too. These digital twins are virtual copies of a patient’s organs or bodily functions, simulations generated so that their health risks and the progression of their disease can be predicted and potential treatments can be tested out.

“Computer simulations are still a long way from being standard practice in medicine, even if they have the potential to be an incredibly valuable tool,” says Professor Matthias Braun from the Department of (Social) Ethics at the University of Bonn, who is responsible for Gemini’s research into ethical and regulatory issues. In the project, the researchers want to try out treatments for individual stroke patients on a digital twin first, using the simulation to gauge which work and which do not. They enter the patient’s medical data, such as blood pressure, heart rate and information from their brain scan and then create a kind of “digital copy” on which they can simulate various treatments.

“If it becomes clear that there are several promising options to choose from, the question this ultimately poses is who should make the decision on the patient’s behalf,” Matthias Braun explains. “We’re particularly interested in how much moral and legal agency simulations like these should be given in an emergency. Is the simulation capable of deciding ‘by proxy’ and, if so, should it be allowed to? How far should such a proxy arrangement be permitted to go?” asks the researcher, who is a member of the Modelling, Life & Health and Individuals & Societies Transdisciplinary Research Areas at the University of Bonn.

Over the next four years, the consortium will be developing the technology needed to create digital twins. It has penciled in a further two years to translate it into a computer simulation that can be deployed in clinical practice with the aim of using digital twins to identify bespoke therapies for patients.

Information: https://dth-gemini.eu/

(German) Podcast on the topic: https://www.uni-bonn.de/de/neues/wenn-der-digitale-zwilling-uns-vor-dem-herzinfarkt-warnt

A total of 19 partners from 12 countries are involved in the research, including Erasmus Universitair Medisch Centrum Rotterdam (EMC), Politecnico Di Milano (POLIMI), CERENOVUS (Neuravi Ltd.), the National University Of Ireland Galway (NUIG) , Universidad Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW)—Research Centre for Computational Health, Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem (BME), National Taiwan University (NTU), Ansys France SAS (ANS), Sano Centrum Zindywidualizowanej Medycyny Obliczeniowej Międzynarodowa Fundacja Badawcza (Sano), the University of Bonn, InSteps BV (IST), Nico-Lab (NLB), Sim & Cure (SCU), and Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza im. Stanisława Staszica w Krakowie (Cyfronet). The project funding lasts for six years.

Prof. Dr. Matthias Braun
Department of (Social) Ethics
Faculty of Protestant Theology
University of Bonn
Phone +49 228 7360644
Email: matthias.braun@uni-bonn.de
Internet: https://www.etf.uni-bonn.de/en/

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