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Blood simulations could help doctors study disease

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University of Pennsylvania researchers are using virtual copies of patient blood to test how an individual's platelets respond to different blood clot reducing drugs.

Computer simulations are used to model natural systems in the world and test virtual scenarios. Now researchers are using this concept to test different treatments for problems inside the body using a virtual copy of a patient's blood.

A team of biomedical engineers and hematologists at the University of Pennsylvania tested platelets from three different donors to see how they responded to various drugs that cause clotting.

For example, researchers simulated a heart attack caused by blood clotting in a diseased coronary artery and tested the effects of aspirin on a donor's blood to see if it would effectively reduce the size of the clot.

“Blood platelets are like computers in that they integrate many signals and make a complex decision of what to do,” said senior author Scott Diamond, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science said in a press release. “We were interested to learn if we could make enough measurements in the lab to detect the small differences that make each of us unique.  It would be impossible to do this with the cells of the liver, heart or brain. But we can easily obtain a tube of blood from each donor and run tests of platelet calcium release.”

Using computer simulations, researchers can test out a drug before it is prescribed to the patient. Diamond noted that his team was even able to identify one person who was resistant to aspirin.

The research will be helpful in predicting clinical risks and drug responses and can help researchers to design biomedical devices.

“Fields like weather prediction and airplane design simulate the flow of air,” Diamond said, “In cardiovascular medicine, we encounter the individually unique and complex fluid of human blood."

The research is published in the journal Blood.

A Personal Simulation of Your Blood Could Help Doctors Study Disease  [PopSci]

Photo via University of Pennsylvania

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Amy Kraft

Weekend Editor

Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure