Upgrade 2021: MEI LAB Speakers

September 21, 2021 // Upgrade 2021: MEI LAB Speakers

Bio-digital Twin Technology Shows Promise in Autonomous Cardiac Therapy

Kenji Sunagawa, Director of Circulatory System Research Foundation | Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan


Despite major advances in medicine over the past few decades, many diseases remain incurable, uncontrollable, or unpreventable, with heart disease being chief among them. Part of the problem is that the cardiovascular system is so complex that it’s difficult to determine which therapies, including drugs and devices, will be effective in each patient’s situation. 


A promising solution lies in the development of a bio-digital twin. In his talk at Upgrade 2020, Kenji Sunagawa, PhD, MD, Founder, and Director of the Circulatory System Research Foundation, demonstrated how bio-digital twin technology can help doctors quickly home in on promising therapies for cardiovascular issues.


“But what is most exciting, at least for us, is autonomous therapy. Just like auto-pilot and self-driving [cars],” Dr. Sunagawa said. “It is a game changer, I’m sure.”


Virtual diagnosis is easy with bio-digital twins because they make it possible to try many different therapies in seconds and immediately see the results. He demonstrated its effectiveness by monitoring an animal in cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition. Monitors tracking the animal’s blood pressure, cardiac output, atrial pressure, and more feed the data to the bio-digital twin.


As soon as the sophisticated digital twin is activated, it immediately diagnoses the issue and starts an infusion of multiple drugs. Within seconds, cardiovascular parameters and function return to normal. “The cardiovascular bio-digital twin can quickly restore normal hemodynamics,” Dr. Sunagawa said, even out-performing highly trained physicians.


He showed how his team developed metabolic modeling in the bio-digital twin. Through the model, the team learned how to lower the heart rate to reduce cardiac oxygen consumption, which is essential for treating cardiogenic shock. Normally, however, that has a negative effect on hemodynamics. But the bio-digital twin proved successful at regulating drug infusions in real-time to stabilize hemodynamics.


“The bio-digital twin deepens our understanding of the cardiovascular system and enables virtual diagnosis and treatment,” Dr. Sunagawa said. “Bio-digital twin-driven autonomous therapeutic intervention will contribute to standardizing therapy, improve treatment quality, and enable medical service to be available beyond time-space constraints.”


Presented at the NTT Research Upgrade 2021 Summit on September 21, 2021.

Kenji Sunagawa

Director of Circulatory System Research Foundation | Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan

Kenji Sunagawa, MD, PhD, is founder and director of Circulatory System Research Foundation and Professor of Emeritus at the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. CSRF is the institution to develop future medicine via disruptive innovations to save patients with treatment-refractory cardiovascular disease. His research interests include cardiovascular mechanics, cardiovascular regulation, heart failure, sudden death, and autonomous therapeutic intervention. He is a fellow of the American Heart Association, European Society of Cardiology, and IEEE.