The Virtual Physiological Human: Ten Years After

Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2016 Jul 11;18:103-23. doi: 10.1146/annurev-bioeng-110915-114742.


Biomedical research and clinical practice are struggling to cope with the growing complexity that the progress of health care involves. The most challenging diseases, those with the largest socioeconomic impact (cardiovascular conditions; musculoskeletal conditions; cancer; metabolic, immunity, and neurodegenerative conditions), are all characterized by a complex genotype-phenotype interaction and by a "systemic" nature that poses a challenge to the traditional reductionist approach. In 2005 a small group of researchers discussed how the vision of computational physiology promoted by the Physiome Project could be translated into clinical practice and formally proposed the term Virtual Physiological Human. Our knowledge about these diseases is fragmentary, as it is associated with molecular and cellular processes on the one hand and with tissue and organ phenotype changes (related to clinical symptoms of disease conditions) on the other. The problem could be solved if we could capture all these fragments of knowledge into predictive models and then compose them into hypermodels that help us tame the complexity that such systemic behavior involves. In 2005 this was simply not possible-the necessary methods and technologies were not available. Now, 10 years later, it seems the right time to reflect on the original vision, the results achieved so far, and what remains to be done.

Keywords: Virtual Physiological Human; computational physiology; in silico medicine; physiome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Patient-Specific Modeling / trends*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • User-Computer Interface*