Feature - Bloody great science: Parallel Blood Flow Simulation using grids
For more than a decade, surgeons have been able to insert video cameras into your arteries and scan your "intra-artery" footage for signs of weakness or clogging.
If your doctor spots a problem, it can often be fixed using a tiny device called a stent: a ring of wire mesh inserted at a crucial point inside your artery. If positioned correctly, a stent can support a weak section of artery wall from the inside, or keep a clogged artery sufficiently open for business.
Thanks to grid-enabled e-science, this life-saving technology is set to get even more high-tech.
Inside your virtual arteries
A team at the University of Kragujevac in the Republic of Serbia, led by Milos Kojic and Nenad Filipovic, is working with SEE-GRID-2 to create a grid-enabled system that will allow surgeons to perform virtual stent surgery, and not once, but a series of times, until they get it just right.
By changing the parameters of each virtual surgery, surgeons can create a list of possible outcomes for actual surgeries. Thus armed, they can choose the very best position for a stent, aiming to achieve an optimum outcome for the operation.
The system making this possible is Parallel Blood Flow Simulation, a one-stop-shop that combines parameters such as blood velocity and pressure with a series of medical images to automatically create a 3D computational model of your cardiovascular system. PBFS also offers grid-enabled simulation, visualization and post-processing tools.
Entering the heart of good science
The main developer for the project, Milos Ivanovic, says an important part of this technology is the ability to compute shear stress, which otherwise cannot be measured.
"Shear stress is the force that blood puts on a blood vessel surface, so by evaluating this in computer simulations we can see which parts of a blood vessel are threatened, and then aim to put a stent in those spots," he says.
"Performing virtual surgery using grids is faster, more reliable, and you're not starved for details."
"With grids, surgeons can perform multiple simulations at the same time and investigate a number of options simultaneously," he says. "Without grids this might take weeks.
Ivanovic is keen to see PBFS used in the field and says collaborations with the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Texas look promising.
"In the future, surgeons will be able to see the results of real-time simulation during a real surgery. This is the potential for this kind of work," says Ivanovic.
The need for speed...and accuracy...and high resolution
PBFS can provide detailed information on blood flow in disease-prone arteries and help predict problem areas. It also helps in the design and optimization of medical equipment and in planning complex surgical procedures.
Ioannis Liabotis, technical coordinator of the SEE-GRID-2 project, says it is because of this high social and scientific impact that PBFS was selected as a prime candidate for gridification.
"It can help doctors achieve better results and thus help the community," Liabotis says. "PBFS can run at an increased speed thanks to the use of a grid. But speed is not the most important factor; more important is the fact that grid infrastructure allows scientists or physicians to use a large amount of memory, which results in a much more reliable simulation."
The Parallel Blood Flow Simulation package was developed at the Center for Scientific Research of Serbian Academy of Science and the Arts and University of Kragujevac. It is funded by and uses grid infrastructure established as part of the SEE-GRID-2 project.
- Cristy Burne, iSGTW