Digital patients replace humans for drug testing

Scientists have used supercomputing power to create “virtual physiological humans” (VPH) to serve as test subjects for a new HIV drug, which might lead to the concept of testing drugs on digital patients in the future.  According to a report in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, University College London scientists developed these VPH to serve as test subjects for the new HIV drug saquinavir, that is designed to block one of the virus’s key proteins.

Their goal was to one day be able to create a unique VPH for each HIV patient, on which doctors could test different medications to determine their potential effects (on the organs, tissues and cells of real patients) and use the information to tailor the best treatments.

Such a move would be a dramatic improvement over today’s testing methods, which largely involve trial and error because doctors have no way to match the drugs to the profile of the virus as it changes in individual patients.

According to the scientists, the human body is so complex that the scientists said that they had to tap into several supercomputers running off national computer networks comprising both the U.K.’s National Grid Service and the U.S. TeraGrid to be able to create the digital patients.

Right now, there’s no word on when this testing method might be available for everyday use.


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