Oak Ridge, TN —Designers of medical equipment and diagnostic systems should check out progress on the Virtual Human project being lead by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL; www.ornl. gov/virtualhuman). This collection of assets on the Internet is aimed at modeling organs and their behavior on the systems level. The project looks to establish servers with resources, including: libraries of physiological models and anatomical data (for developing equivalent physical "phantom" models of various organs that can be made for device testing); actual patient data (such as EKG and EEG traces); and databases of metabolic and bioprocesses. These would all be linked by a "client" user interface.
For designing seat belts or airbags, for example, designers could use the Virtual Human to study how the organs in the chest would respond to and be affected by a blunt-object or accident trauma. Organ exposure to toxins, such as mercury vapor inhalation, and treatment could also be modeled. With precise models of "well" and "problem" physiological characteristics, designers of safety, medical-imaging, and diagnostic systems will be able to evaluate effectiveness of products earlier in the design cycle.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
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