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Geologist’s Research Could Provide Breakthrough For Heart Patients

Date:
April 7, 2009
Source:
University of Bournemouth
Summary:
A geologist has discovered a modeling technique during his research into how planets are formed which can also be used to detect heart defects. The finding has already helped surgeons at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital confirm the location of a potentially life-threatening blood clot.

Professor Nick Petford, geologist and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Bournemouth University (BU) has discovered a modelling technique during his research into how planets are formed which can also be used to detect heart defects.The finding has already helped surgeons at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital confirm the location of a potentially life-threatening blood clot.

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With a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Professor Petford and Professor Tracy Rushmer at Macquarie University, Sydney were investigating the early formation of planets and wanted to find out how liquid travelled into their centre.

“Once you establish how metal flows in cracks then you can develop computer simulations to see how fast it moves,” Petford explained.

“For a long time people thought the flow of liquid iron along the edge of grains and through narrow channels and cracks was not possible. NERC funding allowed me to develop a technique for importing object images of rock slices into a software package and then run a fluid-flow computer simulation to look at how liquid metal inside a meteorite moves around under pressure.”

Professor Petford realised the same idea could be applied to other areas of science and even medicine. “Working with a heart radiographer at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, I then used the same methodology to look at blood flow in a diseased human heart. The raw data we used was an actual MRI scan from a patient. If you have an image and you know fluid flows in it, you can solve the fluid flow equations for that specific geometry.”

The scientists imported the geometry of the arteries into their newly-developed software and used the same methods to simulate the blood flow changing the viscosity and density of the fluid. The location of the stagnant flow was not obvious from the initial MRI scan, but when the researchers used the software to analyse the scan they predicted the clot's location correctly.

The breakthrough for medicine could be profound. “All vascular systems are different,” explained Petford. ”What we can start to think about now are bespoke blood flow models.

“This is a good example of knowledge transfer across disciplines that at first glance do not have much in common, in this case geophysics and clinical medicine. The next step is to develop its medical applications,” he added.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bournemouth. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bournemouth. "Geologist’s Research Could Provide Breakthrough For Heart Patients." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406073543.htm>.
University of Bournemouth. (2009, April 7). Geologist’s Research Could Provide Breakthrough For Heart Patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406073543.htm
University of Bournemouth. "Geologist’s Research Could Provide Breakthrough For Heart Patients." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406073543.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

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