Recently, thinking about the virtual reality emergency medicine simulator, I came across the term human physiology engine. Until then I didn't know anything about it. I became very curious. Right away I asked several questions: what is it, where can I find it and can I use it somehow?
I fell in love with this topic. Since day one I believe that there is something in it and this is going to be amazing, so I became very excited.
Let's step back a bit and let me explain you what it is. The physiology itself is a field of study which determines how organisms function. The human physiology studies how the human organism functions. The nervous system, circulatory system, immune system and other systems are the backbone of proper functioning of the human body. Human physiology has four subgroups: cellular, special, systematic and pathophysiological. In other words, lots of different cells, tissues and organs that are interconnected and have different functions, basically, make us humans alive.
After understanding the basic concepts I moved forward. The next question I asked was, can I find a virtual version of the human physiology in the internet, and another question to ask would be, can human physiology be preprogrammed? By this I mean some kind of mathematical formula or model for each physiology system. What are the attributes, parameters, functions for each system? Then I found this great topic: biomedical engineering theory and practise/ physiological modeling and simulation. Right away I understood that there is a way.
The next step was to search for the mathematical models and functions. Is there a software package or an algorithm which has it all? I thought, there has to be somebody who has described it and made it available for computer programmers. And I was right.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center has developed their human physiology engine which is called HumMod. Everyone can use it and it is an open source. Physiology is described in an XML format and the solution works on a Windows operating system. It has parameters of blood flow, heart rate intervals, cell protein balance, blood pH, even beta receptors. That's huge.
Other solution I found is Kitwarewhich originally is developed by Biogears, basically, both have the same source code, only one is working more with Government institutions and the other one with public companies and tech startups. At the first glance of this I thought this is even bigger. Biogears is massive and it was developed in 5 years. The project has been funded by TATRC and the mission was to create the most comprehensive, open source mathematical model of human physiology. The base programming language is C++ and it works on all three main OS (Windows, Linux, Mac). They provide such physiology systems like circulatory, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous and more. What I found very interesting is that it even has the mathematical model for how drugs like Ketamine and Morphine influence our body.
Good news for simulation developers. There are a few great options out there. There is no need developing this from scratch. I believe that this is the time when everything is out there, you just need to search hard enough and you will find whatever you need. The puzzle pieces are everywhere. Now the great challenge is to see the puzzle pieces and by connecting them make something valuable.
There will be a day when medical students will use virtual reality simulators not only to learn emergency medicine skills but also other simulators where human physiology engines can be used, for example, for testing new drugs or practising surgery. By combining programmer, medical professional, designer and 3D artist competences the opportunities are unlimited. I am confident that the virtual reality is the technology that will open the doors to new and unbelievable innovation directions like never before not only in medical and healthcare markets but others as well. Although the technology is still in its early development stages, it is already available and ready for your creativity and innovation.