The shape of things to come

How future GP consultations could look, thanks to a system being developed at Sheffield's new Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Modelling
How future GP consultations could look, thanks to a system being developed at Sheffield's new Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Modelling

GOING to your doctor could be transformed within a few years, according to scientists in Sheffield who are working on a revolutionary new medical system.

A team of 20 doctors, engineers, computer scientists and other researchers are developing a programme which will create a virtual 3D model of the human body, personalised to each patient.

Medics in Sheffield are already using the programme to model small parts of the body, such as the heart, but are aiming to expand the system to model the entire body - allowing them to test the effect of treatments, drugs and operations, before they carry them out for real.

Professor Wendy Tindale, scientific director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, told The Star: “I know it sounds very futuristic but the tools are with us today, ready to be exploited.

“In the end the way you visit your doctor will be very different as a result of this work.

“You will go to your GP and they will have a digital replica of your body.”

Academics have been researching medical modelling in Sheffield since the late 1990s - but now they have come together to create a new Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Modelling to accelerate research into the system.

In September the new institute - known as INSIGNEO - will move into a building being constructed at the corner of Broad Lane and Newcastle Street in the city centre.

The department, a joint project between The University of Sheffield’s faculties of engineering and medicine and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has hired three new professors from across Europe, each leading experts on medical modelling.

Prof Alejandro Frangi, director of the new institute, said: “The idea is to input data such as MRI scans, X-Rays, ECG scans and medical history, and create a computational model to predict disease progression or the interplay between organs and medical intervention.

“All these sources of data are currently used by physicians - but they have to make a mental picture of the disease and the patient.

“These systems allow us to make that model with computers and personalise it to patients.”

Prof Tindale said: “What is brilliant is the way Sheffield is amassing a strength in this area. The city really has become a leading light in this area.”