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January 30, 2008

Virtual Human Body in HIV Drug Simulation

Scientists at University College London have successfully utilized the national computing grids of the United States and the United Kingdom to create a Virtual Physiological Human simulation, essentially using supercomputers to simulate the inner workings of the human body. It may one day help people living with HIV better cope with drug resistance, ScienceDaily reports (sciencedaily.com, 1/29).

Using the amount of computational power necessary to perform long-range weather forecasts, scientists were able to predict how the antiretroviral drug saquinavir would work in the body. In simulating the human body’s reaction to the drug through this massive computer network, scientists are better able to examine phenomena at the organ, tissue, cell and molecular level.

According to ScienceDaily, the goal of this study is to eliminate “trial and error” prescriptions. However, researchers such as head study author Professor Peter Coveney at the UCL Department of Chemistry are concerned that running such simulations for individual patients may prove costly.

“We have some difficult questions ahead of us, such as how much of our computing resources could be devoted to helping patients and at what price,” says Coveney. “At present, such simulations—requiring a substantial amount of computing power—might prove costly for the National Health Service, but technological advances and those in the economics of computing would bring costs down.”


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