The Loving Heart Behind the Living Heart Project

By Daniel R. Matlis

“The 3DExperience” was at the core of Dassault Systèmes user’s conference in Las Vegas last month. “We are at the 4th horizon of Dassault Systèmes,” proclaimed Monica Menghini, EVP Corporate Strategy, Industry and Marketing at Dassault Systèmes. “We called it the 3DExperience, because 3D is the legacy of Dassault Systèmes, but Experience is [not only] our future, it is your future because today consumers buy experience, not products.”

Keeping with the Experience theme, the names of Dassault Systèmes’ products were noticeably absent from the main stage. Instead, Dassault’s executives and customers shared their experiences with the company’s products and the impact they are making on their customer’s experience.

For me, the highlight of the 3DS Experience was Dr. Steven Levine’s presentation recounting the journey of “Building a Living Heart: How Technology is Transforming Lives.” Levine is Senior Director of SIMULIA Portfolio Management at Dassault Systèmes. If you keep reading, you will find out that he is much more than that.

Earlier this year, I personally experienced the thrill of hovering through the human heart at Dassault Systèmes Headquarters outside Paris (Read: Hovering Through the Human Heart ). However, at the 3DS user conference, Dassault took the “Experience” to a new level.

The Holy Grail of Life-Science and Healthcare is the development of a virtual human model; and the shift from in-vivo to in-vitro and finally ‘in-silico’. Last month the quest towards unlocking the virtual human model made a giant leap when Dassault Systèmes announced that it had signed a five-year collaborative research agreement with the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Through this agreement, FDA intends to use the model to target the development of testing paradigms for the insertion, placement and performance of pacemaker leads and other cardiovascular devices used to treat heart disease.

Living-Heart-1st-yearDuring his presentation, Levine explained that the “Living Heart Project” was created to advance the development of safe and effective cardiovascular products and treatments by uniting engineering, scientific, and biomedical expertise to translate cutting-edge science into improved patient care.

The model has been developed with the contribution of 30 organizations, which include more than 100 cardiovascular specialists from across research, industry and medicine. The researchers have teamed with the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) with the goal of accelerating the approval process of medical devices while spurring innovation, improving patient reliability and reducing costs. The project has already been used to validate the efficacy of a novel valve assist device prior to insertion in a real patient and understand the progression of heart disease.

In just over a year, the team has advanced the model from a rudimentary four chambered oval, to a realistic and validated 3D heart simulator. This virtual model of the Heart promises to launch the next frontier in personalized patient care.


As exciting as the FDA announcement was, the pinnacle of the event came when Levine recounted the real life inspiration behind the “Living Heart Project”: a little girl named Jesse who was born with a reversed heart. As a result, she received her first pacemaker at the age of two and her 4th before she turned 20. (Watch the video)

Living-Heart-Jesse-TodayToday, Jesse is an MD PhD student at Stony Brook. If you look closely at the picture, you will notice Jesse’s last name (click on the picture to enlarge).

Jesse is Steve’s daughter and the inspiration for the Living Heart Project. Making Steve the “Loving Heart” behind the “Living Heart Project”, or was it the other way around…

Dassault is not stopping at the heart. The company is collaborating with other communities to model additional human organs and system aimed at the generation of new healthcare solutions and collaborative practices that will ultimately improve patient outcomes and increase patient accessibility.

Stay tuned as we take the next leap towards the virtual human model.

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