The Cyber-Physical Twin of Human Organs
cyvy Research Project
Airline pilots train many hundreds of hours in flight simulators before they take to the skies. In contrast, surgeons have very limited access to simulators, and those that are available do not offer sufficiently realistic conditions. Medical instruments used for robotic and minimally-invasive surgery are often tested on grapes or cans of meat and thus do not accurately reflect reality.
Dr. Tian Qiu, leader of the Cyber Valley “Biomedical Microsystems” research group, has set out to improve the situation. His research focuses on developing very realistic organ phantoms that optimize surgical training procedures and make them quantitatively measurable. Not only are these phantoms authentic physical replicas, they also have a cyber component. In other words. Qiu’s research program proposes to develop a “cyber-physical twin” of human organs.
Each 3D-printed organ twin is made of soft materials very similar to real organs in terms of anatomy and tissue properties. The cyber aspect is that the model can sense what it experiences and that this data is collected. Such data would be impossible to record if, for instance, a medical procedure were trained on a real human organ. With the data generated by a cyber-physical organ twin, the outcome of a surgery training session can now be clearly visualized, which is not even possible in a real surgical situation. The performance of a medical student who is training to become a surgeon could thus be evaluated automatically, and the feedback can be provided immediately after the training session to improve the training experience.
Such smart cyber-physical organ twins will one day transform surgical training. Tian Qiu and his team believe that they could gradually substitute medical training on human bodies and reduce animal experiments. The organ replicas not only offer the opportunity to develop and test new medical instruments, but also to develop better safety products such as helmets and airbags, for example when body part replicas are used in crash tests. Vital data on how they are affected in an accident can be collected and analyzed.