It could mean the end of animal testing and eventually even clinical patient drug trials. The Virtual Physiological Human is a 21st century pan-European project that’s gaining momentum and takes a major step forward this week at The University of Nottingham.
The University is one of 13 institutions involved in the VPH initiative which aims to create a methodological and technological framework to deliver patient-specific computer models for the personalised and predictive healthcare of the future. Once established it will allow a wide range of academic, clinical and industrial researchers to investigate the human body as a single complex system. They will be able to use the VPH network’s expanding database of computer simulation data to develop better diagnosis and treatment methods.
Researchers at The University of Nottingham have been charged with developing a postgraduate VPH training programme which will be truly unique, cross-disciplinary and will involve periods of study for this kind of collaborative scientist at universities across Europe. A week-long study group to investigate one aspect of VPH science takes place on campus this week when mathematicians and medical researchers are working together to use mathematical modelling to suggest solutions to currently unsolved biomedical problems.
Study groups are workshops promoting the interaction between modellers and academic and industrial researchers working within life sciences. The latter two are invited to present technical problems for study in intensive workshops with leading mathematical modellers from the academic community. This week the groups will try to model various problems relating to regenerative medicine, with a focus on epithelial (membrane) cells in the skin, bladder, lungs, gut, heart and breast. It’s hoped the groups will come up with new theoretical models which could result in journal publications, and eventually funded research projects in their own right.
Dr Bindi Brook of the University’s School of Mathematical Sciences said: “This study group is one of the prototypes for the sort of collaborative study which will be a key feature of our new VPH training programme. The course will allow postgraduates to train within the VPH network of European universities and, crucially, to access and contribute to a virtual VPH academy online.”
The Virtual Physiological Human is an initiative that’s being funded to the tune of 72 million Euros by the EU. It could revolutionise medical science in the 21st century. Central to its success will be to maximise the return from the vast quantities of patient-specific data that is emerging in the post-genomic era. Advances in computing and information technology have the potential to deliver tailored clinical treatments based on simulation of the genetic profile of the patient. And this is not just a long-term goal. It’s expected that substantial advances in this field will be made over the next ten years in a range of diseases, from cancer to HIV/AIDS.
The University of Nottingham, with the Municipal Institute of Medical Investigation in Barcelona, is launching a new VPH training programme over the next year and aims to start recruiting the first students in September 2010.
Virtual Physiological Human Network of Excellence website: http://www.vph-noe.eu/
Resource VPH image for publication should be credited to: AC/IS/M.Abildgaard
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.