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Virtual Human Body Could Be Used to Test New Treatments

Virtual Physiological Human
The Virtual Physiological Human could be used to test treatments on a simulation before giving them to a real patient, scientists say. (Image credit: Insigneo Institute / University of Sheffield)

A computer simulation of the human body could be used to look at the possible effects of new drugs and treatments before they are given to real patients.

The Virtual Physiological Human, a computer-simulated replica of the human body, could transform the economics and practice of modern medicine and research, scientists say.

The virtual-human project aims to allow physicians to model the mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of the body as a single complex system rather than as a collection of organs. [Ready for Med School? Test Your Body Smarts]

Scientists at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom are leading the project, and will present their progress on it there this week. Presentations will cover the imaging and computational modeling of lung disease, coronary artery disease, bone-fracture risk and the treatment of Parkinson's disease, as well as the emerging potential of the 21st-century laboratory.

The virtual-body system could lead to better health care by offering personalized care and a more holistic, preventative approach to medicine, the scientists developing the system said.

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Tanya Lewis
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.