Clinical trials and physician interviews translated into differential equations
The Synergy-COPD project aims to study the underlying mechanisms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) phenotypes associated with poor prognosis. This is done by simulating different functions of the human body using computer models at different levels (sub cellular, tissue, organ and organ system). In this way, the behavior of each physiological network can be observed separately and in an integrated way. The project seeks to produce a more complete computer model of the mechanisms of COPD.
These computer tools (representing a vast compendium of medical knowledge, in the form of a program, drawn from epidemiological data, clinical trials and physician interviews, and translated into differential equations) will contribute to replicate the human physiology.
The project addresses two main strategic areas. Firstly, contributing to foster the convergence between basic and clinical sciences. Secondly, the project applies the new approach not only to conventional care, but also promoting the link between systems medicine and integrated care, aiming at personalized health for patients suffering chronic diseases.
Leveraging Biomax's BioXM technology, a comprehensive COPD knowledge base with a graphical frontend for visualizations is being established. The system integrates five well-established simulations of human physiology with biomedical data drawn from experimental studies, epidemiological data, clinical trials, physician interviews, a multi-center longitudinal study on COPD phenotyping, and public datasets. Integrating with a Simulation environment, researchers will be able to perform simulations linking symptoms and pathologies in organs and tissues with other features, such as metabolic pathways. Building on this foundation, a decision support system will allow doctors to anticipate disease progression and optimize therapy.
The Synergy-COPD project is expected to bring a variety of benefits to healthcare:
- Identification of new approaches to manage chronic disease using tools that provide accurate, state-of-the-art disease progression predictions and best practices for treatment
- Better care especially for high-risk patients with multiple diseases and complex needs
- Increased understanding of the underlying mechanisms of disease phenotypes and identification of biomarkers associated with disease prognosis
- Support of disease management by providing pharmaceutical companies, bio-researchers and public health departments with a modeling platform, simulation environment and tools to optimize experimental design and establish shorter and less expensive virtual trials
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe lung disease associated with lung airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. Causes are destruction of lung tissue leading to collapse of airways (emphysema) and/or inflammation of the airway (chronic bronchitis). Tobacco use is a major factor causing COPD, but other lung irritants, such as pollution (biofuels), dust (asbestos, cement) or chemicals are important factors in developing countries. It is a complex, multi-component disease affecting not only the respiratory system but also the cardiovascular, metabolic, muscle and skeletal systems. COPD is preventable, but not curable.
According to the World Health Organization, 600 million people have COPD and it is considered the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. WHO predicts it will become the third leading cause of death by 2020. According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), COPD is ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in Europe and a leading cause of healthcare costs in the European Union.
About the Synergy-COPD project
The Synergy-COPD project is funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) to develop a simulation environment and a decision-support system aimed at enabling systems medicine. The project's research partners are leading experts in the field of COPD and relevant technologies and methods for advancing COPD research. The development of the proposed system will benefit from having access to large COPD databases previously generated by the researchers involved. Alongside Biomax, the international consortium comprises a mixture of commercial and academic organizations including Barcelona Digital Technology Center, August Pi i Sunyer Institute of Biomedical Research, the Karolinska Institute, University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, Technical University of Budapest, Linkcare Healthservices S.L. and Infermed Ltd. The Synergy-COPD project is expected to run for three years followed by a two-year period in which the products that emerge from it will be marketed.