Sun, Sep 09, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Medtech firms get personal with digital twins
利用數位雙胞胎 醫學科技公司「探人隱私」

A three-dimensional printout of a human heart is shown at the Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany on Aug. 14.

Photo: Reuters

Armed with a mouse and computer screen instead of a scalpel and operating theater, cardiologist Benjamin Meder carefully places the electrodes of a pacemaker in a beating, digital heart. Using this “digital twin” that mimics the electrical and physical properties of the cells in patient 7497’s heart, Meder runs simulations to see if the pacemaker can keep the congestive heart failure sufferer alive — before he has inserted a knife.

The digital heart twin developed by Siemens Healthineers is one example of how medical device makers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to help doctors make more precise diagnoses as medicine enters an increasingly personalized age. Experts say the success of AI in medical technology will hinge on access to reliable data, not only to create models for diagnosis but also to predict how effective treatments will be for a specific patient in the days and years to come.

“Imagine that in the future, we have a patient with all their organ functions, all their cellular functions, and we are able to simulate this complexity,” said Meder, a cardiologist at Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany who is testing Siemens Healthineers’ digital heart software. “We would be able to predict weeks or months in advance which patients will get ill, how a particular patient will react to a certain therapy, which patients will benefit the most. That could revolutionize medicine.”

To this end, Siemens Healthineers has built up a vast database of more than 250 million annotated images, reports and operational data on which to train its new algorithms. In the example of the digital twin, the AI system was trained to weave together data about the electrical and physical properties and the structure of a heart into a 3D image. One of the main challenges was hiding the complexity and creating an interface that is easy to use, said Tommaso Mansi, a senior R&D director at Siemens Healthineers who developed the software.


1. operating theater phr.

手術室 (shou3 shu4 shi4)

2. pacemaker n.

心律調節器 (xin1 lu4 tiao2 jie2 qi4)

3. personalized adj.

個人化的 (ge4 ren2 hua4 de5)

4. hinge on phr.

仰賴 (yang3 lai4)

5. algorithm n.

演算機制 (yan3 suan4 ji1 zhi4)

6. R&D abbr. (research and development)

研發 (yan2 fa1)

To test the technology, Meder’s team created 100 digital heart twins of patients being treated for heart failure in a six-year trial. The computer makes predictions based on the digital twin and they are then compared with actual outcomes. His team hopes to finish evaluating the predictions by the end of this year. If the results are promising, the system will be tested in a larger, multi-center trial as the next step to getting the software approved by regulators for commercial use.








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