Skip to main content
Move the World.

Jesse Levine was born with a congenital heart defect where the valves in her heart were reversed. It's a serious medical condition—she has had a pacemaker since she was two years old—that has required constant monitoring from doctors as she's grown older. Like most parents, her father Steve wanted to learn all he could about her condition. But unlike most parents, Steve Levine has spent years developing solutions that could help doctors treat patients like his daughter.

"Being a lifelong patient you realize that a lot of people don't have a lot of involvement in their medical care," Jesse explains, "My dad got really involved and the doctors opened up to him because he's an engineer."

Steve has worked for years at Dassault Systèmes, helping companies model real-world scenarios inside the computer.

"Everyone sees cars being crashed on TV and they see crash dummies," Steve explains, "And there's an assumption that when automotive companies build cars, they build prototypes and they put the dummies in, see what happens and then they tweak the design. And they used to do that years ago. But now they do that all on the computer because we can actually simulate exactly what happens to the car down to the smallest rivet on the computer. Because we understand the detailed physics of what happens."

After years of helping companies model countless scenarios to deliver better products, Steve began to wonder if the same could be done for the human body. Steve's insight was a simple, but profound one: the human body is just a more complicated machine of which we explore different parts. So why can't we create a virtual heart?


Watch: Go Inside a Heart in Virtual Reality

While there are a whole host of other promising technologies (from brain implants to stem cells to exoskeleton suits) to restore lost function for parapalegics and quadrapalegics, researchers are hopeful this approach will be yet another avenue to help people regain lost mobility.

Combatting PTSD with Virtual Battlefields

Researchers at the University of California’s Institute for Creative Technology have developed a unique treatment for PTSD by repurposing video game software and virtual reality headsets.

Patients are immersed into the simulation while a nearby clinician asks them questions throughout the session and controls all aspects of the experience—from the location, mission, time of day, even individual sounds and smells.

Participants slip on a headset and enter a tame, virtual environment. Initially, no spiders are present. When ready, participants can choose to advance to the next level with a single spider. Each subsequent level has more and more spiders. If the level becomes too much, participants can retreat to the previous level. The goal is to help people feel in control of the experience and to face their fears through immersion.

While the application in medicine is still in its early stages, people like Steve Levine are confident that virtual reality holds the promise of better care for millions of people.

More About

Go Deeper
Hope Grows for Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries
Hope Grows for Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries
Go Deeper
Hope Grows for Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries
Severe spinal cord injuries resulting in total paralysis are usually considered permanent, with no hope of recovery. And yet, in a handful of patients spanning multiple levels of severity, movement is being regained.
By B. David Zarley

Severe spinal cord injuries (SCIs) -- often called complete injuries by clinicians -- are ones where no readable signal from the brain reaches the spinal cord beneath the trauma, resulting in total paralysis. The possibility that a patient with this type of severe injury might regain movement was once considered so remote that rehab has traditionally seemed a waste of time. And yet, in a handful of patients spanning multiple…

Dispatches
CRISPR Edits Out Autistic Traits in Mice
CRISPR Edits Out Autistic Traits in Mice
Dispatches
CRISPR Edits Out Autistic Traits in Mice
The technique could also open up treatments for Huntington's, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.
By Dan Bier

The technique could also open up treatments for Huntington's, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.

Superhuman
Can Genetically Modified Pigs Be the Key to Treating Rare Diseases?
Can Genetically Modified Pigs Be the Key to Treating Rare Diseases?
Watch Now
Superhuman
Can Genetically Modified Pigs Be the Key to Treating Rare Diseases?
When it comes to rare diseases, doctors often don’t have enough patients to determine the effectiveness of various treatments. Now, scientists are breeding pigs with the same genetic code as people with a disease in order to create a pool of test "patients" unlike any before.
Watch Now

There are thousands of diseases known to modern medicine without any cure or treatment. Many are too rare to get much attention from doctors, governments, or drug companies. But the gene editing tool CRISPR is offering hope for people with rare and hard to study diseases, like the genetic disease known as NF1. There are tens of thousands of Americans with this tumor-causing nerve disease, but because it has over…

Dispatches
Robots Are Mass Producing Mini-Organs
Robots Are Mass Producing Mini-Organs
Dispatches
Robots Are Mass Producing Mini-Organs
Robots can make hundreds of tiny copies of your organs, allowing doctors to test many different treatments at the same…
By Dan Bier

Robots can make hundreds of tiny copies of your organs, allowing doctors to test many different treatments at the same time.

Dispatches
Scientists Physically "Transplant" a Memory in Snails
Scientists Physically "Transplant" a Memory in Snails
Dispatches
Scientists Physically "Transplant" a Memory in Snails
The experiment breaks the conventional wisdom about what memories are made of.
By Dan Bier

The experiment breaks the conventional wisdom about what memories are made of.

New Space Race
How Do We Respond to Crimes in Space?
How Do We Respond to Crimes in Space?
New Space Race
How Do We Respond to Crimes in Space?
As talk of space colonization heats up, is it time to have a serious conversation about conflict resolution in a…
By Mike Riggs

As talk of space colonization heats up, is it time to have a serious conversation about conflict resolution in a place where few rules or laws exist?

The New Space Race
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
The New Space Race
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
Fleets of small satellites can gather far more accurate and timely data than conventional satellites. And investors are taking notice.
By Mike Riggs

Fleets of small satellites can gather far more accurate and timely data than conventional satellites. And investors are taking notice.

Superhuman
Superhuman Trailer
Superhuman Trailer
Watch Now
Superhuman
Superhuman Trailer
Join us as we meet the innovators building our superhuman future.
Watch Now

Superhuman is a Freethink original series about the amazing advances in medical innovation that are making the present look more like a sci-fi depiction of the future. Join us as we meet the engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors and patients who are giving people a new lease on life today, while building our superhuman future of tomorrow.