JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

March 19, 1998
MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Stephenson
PHONE: (410) 955-5384
E-MAIL: gstephen@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

Hopkins Engineer Wins Smithsonian Award For "Computer That Thinks It's A Heart"

A computer-based, 3-D model of the human heart that serves as a powerful tool for testing new life-savings drugs has been selected for the Smithsonian Institutions's Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology Innovations at the National Museum of American History.

The digital heart model joins a collection of 42 of the year's most innovative applications of technology drawn from 40 states and 19 countries. To mark the event, the Computerworld Smithsonian Awards program will hold a presentation ceremony on April 6 at 9:30 a.m. on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Raimond Winslow, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, developed the heart model using parallel super-computers, that comprise several processors coordinated to perform complex calculations quickly. For example, the model assesses the impact of drugs being studied for cardiac arrhythmia, a condition marked by erratic and abnormal electrical activity.

"The digital heart is a biophysically and anatomically detailed model of the heart that simulates the molecular basis of certain heart disorders," says Winslow. "As such, it represents a new technological approach to mass screening of drugs that avoids the traditional, time-consuming, trial-and-error method."

Winslow translates the heart's operations into numeric formulas, using the latest data collected by biologists. Then, by making small changes in the model, he can see how drugs affect certain enzymes, proteins and other molecules to make the heart beat properly -- or improperly.

"The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is using information technology to make great strides toward remarkable social achievement in medicine," says David Allison, chairman of the National Museum of American History's Division of Information Technology and Society.

Case studies from the 1998 Information Technology Innovation Collection will be available to the public June 8 on the Innovation Network Web site at http://innovate.si.edu where the entire 10-year collection is available.

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