Sheffield University to create virtual human

The University of Sheffield-based Insigneo Institute is developing an in silico model of the human body to enable researchers to investigate the effects of drugs and treatments.

The institute, founded one year ago at the University of Sheffield, is showcasing the first phase of technology that will hopefully lead to the creation of a virtual human body and revolutionise global healthcare. 

The objective is to create a replica of the human body which will enable virtual testing of medical treatments. When complete, the Virtual Physiological Human could transform the economics and practicalities of modern medical treatment and medical research. 

The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) programme is backed by funding distributed by the European Commission. Since 2007 €220 million of EC funding has been targeted at collaborative in silico projects across Europe such as the VPH.  

The VPH will enable collaborative investigation of the human body as a single complex system using integrated computer models of the mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of the human body. It is hoped that the VPH will lead to a better healthcare system, offering personalised care solutions, a more holistic approach to medicine and a preventative approach to treatment of disease. In time it will lead to treatment that sees the body as a single multi-organ system rather than as a collection of individual organs.  

‘What we’re working on here will be vital to the future of healthcare,’ said Dr Keith McCormack, who leads business development at the institute. ‘Pressures are mounting on health and treatment resources worldwide. Candidly, without in silico medicine, organisations like the NHS will be unable to cope with demand. The Virtual Physiological Human will act as a software-based laboratory for experimentation and treatment that will save huge amounts of time and money and lead to vastly superior treatment outcomes.’

The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine is a collaborative initiative between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is a multi-disciplinary institute with a membership of more than 120 academics and clinicians who are collaborating to develop computer simulations of the human body and its disease processes.

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