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Declan Bates talk

Declan Bates portraitDeclan will tell us another hopeful story.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Goodbye Entertainment, hello Systems Medicine. He  is focusing on intensive care medicine. The challenge is to save more lives, and reduce the very high treatment costs.

As an engineer, he usually thinks of design in terms of technology, but it can also be thought about in terms of systems. A system is a group of interacting, interrelated or interdependent elements working together, whether an aeroplane or a airport.

There are many trade-offs in designing technological systems, and the objective is to find the ‘sweet spot’. But complexity can defeat the possibility. We need a clear understanding of how elements interact, and computer-aided design as a tool.

Another definition of a system is a group of body organs, e.g. the digestive system. In medicine, there are many trade-offs, such as between disease eradication and side effects.

For example, mechanical ventilation involves a trade-off between necessary gas exchange and avoiding lung injury. The lung is a very complex system, and in patients with lung diseases the functioning of the millions of alveoli becomes even more variable. So Declan and his collaborators are developing computer models to simulate the effects of different ventilation strategies in different patients, and CAD tools to find the sweet spot.

They are still only scratching the surface of the potential. Using computer models could: reduce the use of animals in medical research; steer clinical trials to make them quicker and more efficient; provide more personalised treatment; lower mortality rates.

More Information

Systems Biology research at the University of Exeter

Anaesthesia and Intensive Care research at the University of Nottingham