Series | Superhuman

Father makes 3D heart for daughter

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Any father would do whatever it takes to save their child’s life.

So when Steve Levine found out that his daughter was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease, he started thinking of any way he could help.

The problem was that his daughter was born with reversed left and right ventricles, the weaker of which would run the risk of giving out as she aged.

She had a pacemaker installed at age two, and doctors gave her about 30 years until complications would set in as a result of her abnormal heart.

She’s now 28.

Steve Levine, an Engineer with a Vision

An engineer by trade, Mr. Levine spent years designing 3D crash simulations for auto and airline manufacturers to optimize safety for their passengers. In these simulations, they could conduct thousands of tests, all without the destruction and waste of real-life materials, and all before final products were even built.

Then he had his epiphany.

Why couldn’t 3D models—such as a 3D human heart—be used to help the medical industry and even his own daughter?

With the concept for his living heart model in hand, he founded the Living Heart Project.

The Living Heart Project Tackles Heart Disease Treatment

As the leading cause of death across the world, cardiovascular disease accounts for the death of one in four Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

By working with researchers, educators, regulators, and practicing cardiologists, the goal of the Living Heart Project is to create a realistic, virtual model of the human heart to help with the treatment of heart disease.

This computational modeling can help doctors better understand how the body works, design new treatments, and create optimal treatment regimens for each specific patient. With these insights, 3D modeling could even help save your life someday.

The challenge for doctors today is that there are so many drugs, treatments, and devices. It’s hard to know which will be most effective for a specific patient, especially since each person has a unique medical history and physiology.

The Virtual Human Heart Advances Testing & Detection

Since everyone’s heart is unique—especially considering individual or rare defects—3D human hearts that match a real heart can be tested inside simulations to learn more about the progression of rare heart diseases that aren’t well known. Even better, this testing can happen without the risks of exploratory surgery or treatments that may do more harm than good.

This is especially promising because several doctors admit that by the time they see the symptoms it’s probably too late to do anything about it.

The Future of Computational Modeling

In the future, we could all have our own 3D human hearts that our doctors use to guide treatments and inform our overall healthcare system.

There may even come a time where our entire anatomy is reconstructed in a model that can help predict a biological response to a certain treatment or drug without having to administer it.

And this could not only help save lives but could also benefit doctors that currently rely on experience or intuition to successfully treat patients.

If you’re inspired by Steve Levine’s story, check out more amazing advances in medical innovation in our recent episode on how to heal the brain after trauma.

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