2020-07-24 07:03:08

SHANGHAI — The future of medicine could look something like this: A so-called digital twin of you could test a drug or surgical procedure first to assess any possible risks and complications.

Dassault Systèmes, a French simulation software provider, aims to build a “virtual twin experience of humans” to facilitate medical research and treatment development. The company is moving its Asia-Pacific headquarters from Tokyo to Shanghai, where some of its trials are already underway.

“Shanghai has a good business environment,” Sylvain Laurent, executive vice president of Dassault Systèmes, told reporters at a press event Thursday. “By moving our headquarters here, we can serve clients in the Asia-Pacific region better.”

Digital twin technology, or creating a virtual replica of a real-world product or procedure, has been used to design and test aircraft and automobiles.

“The human body is essentially systems-within-a-system,” Laurent told Sixth Tone. “So we can apply what we’ve learned from serving other industries to building a human body model.”

Bai Rui, the company’s technical director of simulation in China, said Dassault Systèmes has been working with a few medical institutions involving heart and orthopedic projects. For example, the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center has been using the French company’s beating heart simulation to train surgeons to better understand the human organ.

“Doctors can also use our system to explain surgical procedures to patients and their families,” Bai told Sixth Tone. “3D simulations can help visualize the steps that laypersons struggle to understand.”

However, Bai said the technology is not yet mature enough to build a virtual representation of the entire human body.

“There are so many micro-level mechanisms in our body that we simply don’t understand,” he said.

In recent years, industrial design and engineering firms have been tapping into the world of medicine. American software companies Autodesk and Ansys, for instance, have already been providing simulation software to design medical implants.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A visitor tries out Dassault Systèmes 3D heart simulation at the companys office in Shanghai, July 23, 2020. Ye Ruolin/Sixth Tone)