Military Medical Advisor Calls for Development of 3D Human Models

Article excerpt

ORLANDO, Fla.--A medical advisor to the U.S. military is urging the government to support the development of modeling technologies in order to create advanced computer simulations of the human body.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was pursuing this technology years ago but abandoned it A similar lack of interest is seen in the private sector, the advisor said.

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But without this technology, the medical industry is stuck in the dark ages, Richard M. Satava said at the annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference. "We have no model of the patient," said Satava, a former DARPA program manager.

He elaborated in an interview with National Defense.

"If General Motors is building a new car, they make tens of thousands of models and run them through virtual-prototype testing and evaluation," he said.

In medicine, he added, "We don't have anything like that."

Satava now works as a professor of surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center and as a senior science advisor at the Army's Medical Research Command, at Ft. Detrick, Md. From 1992 to 2006, he oversaw DARPA's advanced biomedical technology unit. There, he spearheaded the now-defunct virtual soldier project, an effort to develop a complete 3D model of the human body. Satava said the project--if it were ever carried out--would revolutionize the field of medicine.

"The only question is how long it's going to take the health care industry to wake up to the importance of this," Satava said. "I don't want to seem like a megalomaniac, but this is on the magnitude of ceil phones or the Internet."

The goal of the virtual soldier project was to create holographic medical representations, or holomers, of patients' bodies. These would combine CAT scans with complex algorithms to form 3D models that behave, physiologically, like humans.

Doctors would be able to test medicines and practice procedures on the models before administering them to patients. Currently, doctors estimate how much medicine to prescribe a patient and then increase or decrease the dosage based on the results. …