By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – New heart devices usually need to be tested on real people before going to market, but a local company has developed one-of-a-kind virtual technology which may be a game changer.

Steve Levine’s daughter, Jesse, was born with a rare heart defect requiring multiple surgeries and a pacemaker, fraught with complication. “She’s had four pacemaker operations since she was two,” says Levine. “She’s had three wires break inside her body. So we know there is improvement that can be made in the case of the leads.”

So Steve, an engineer at Dassault Systèmes in Waltham, launched the Living Heart Project, using 3D technology to give doctors and scientists a virtual view of the human heart like never before.

“What a lot of doctors struggle with,” explains Levine, “Is looking at a 2D slice or representation and in their minds having to imagine the 3D manifestation, so we create that connection for them.”

Using 3D glasses, users take a tour through the heart, seeing the muscle movements, electrical impulses, and blood flow through the four chambers.

Both in with a theater-like experience and a smaller portable version, doctors can not only study a healthy heart but also see what happens when something goes wrong. And one day, with EKG and MRI data, they will make custom 3D models of patients’ hearts to test therapies before prescribing them.

“New devices and new innovations can be tested very rapidly and cost effectively on the computer rather than testing them on bodies and in clinical trials,” says Levine. Like new pacemaker leads for Jesse, who is now 26 years old, but still has challenges. “When I think about the fact that maybe one day my daughter’s life will actually be dependent on the work I am doing, it’s really a profound feeling,” says Levine.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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