City Magazine 2014
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  1. Brighter futures for newborn babies
City Magazine 2014

Brighter futures for newborn babies

The Development & Alumni Relations Office at City is commencing the planning for a new campaign to fund research into pioneering technology designed to improve the life opportunities of newborn babies and young infants affected by congenital heart disease.

Congenital heart disease, which refers to a range of heart conditions or defects that develop in the womb, affects up to 9 out of every 1,000 babies born in the UK. It can include holes between the chambers of the heart or incomplete formation of the heart valves. In one third of all cases, repair by surgery is required. While most infants now survive this traumatic start to life, for many, their quality of life as they grow older can be limited by the need to avoid undue stress on the heart.

Until recently, it has not been possible to predict the effect of heart surgery on a child's subsequent ability to enjoy life to the fullest. However, computer based simulation models have the potential to act as a powerful new tool for cardiac surgeons.

Academics from the School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering are working with leading clinicians to develop a comprehensive computational capability to simulate the complete behaviour of an infant's heart. Led by Professor Roger Crouch, the School's Dean, the City research will be unique in its capacity to combine highly detailed 3D models of the whole heart with computer simulations of blood flow. Such a model will, for example, allow surgeons to identify bypass solutions tailored to each individual patient that will enable optimal blood supply and pumping efficiency post-surgery. For children born with heart defects, this may enable them to have the freedom to run, play and participate in sport at a level not previously thought possible.

The advanced modelling involved in this research represents a new frontier in computational bioengineering, harnessing the power of high performance parallel computers, magnetic resonance imaging and sophisticated finite element analysis. As Professor Crouch notes, "City has a rich history of leading where others follow, particularly in Engineering. From the early experimental work of Frederick Handley Page in aeronautical engineering to George Daniels, who was one of the leading watchmakers of the twentieth century, we have at our core the ability to make a real difference. This research, which has the potential to transform young lives, takes current technology to the next stage through its emphasis on patient-specific features. It will place City firmly on the map in the field of computational bioengineering".