Men between the ages of 50 and 60 have an 80 percent chance of experiencing bladder outlet obstruction (BOO) due to an enlarged prostate, resulting in physical and psychological symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. BOO occurs when the urethral resistance increases, forcing the bladder muscle cells to generate higher pressures to empty the bladder. Over time, this leads to changes in bladder size, tissue composition, and functionality. Left untreated, BOO can escalate and cause complications such as urinary retention, bladder stones, and kidney failure.
To address this pressing issue, a group of interdisciplinary researchers from institutions worldwide has been awarded a $3,201,394 grant from the National Institutes of Health. Over a five-year period, they will develop a digital twin of the bladder, capable of simulating normal and BOO-affected bladder function to aid in the evaluation of treatments. This project aims to understand the connection between changes in bladder wall structure and bladder functionality.
The team, consisting of engineers, medical doctors, biologists, and computer scientists, plans to use a rat model of BOO in conjunction with computational data to create the digital twin. By continuously enhancing the model, it will be able to accurately predict the success of pharmacological and surgical treatments for patients.
Currently, surgical outcomes for BOO have a low success rate, highlighting the necessity to comprehend the underlying issues. By leveraging existing computational approaches and tools developed for other organs, the researchers hope to rapidly advance our understanding of bladder biomechanics. Dr. Paul Watton, co-principal investigator, emphasized the potential of this project to generate new insights into the complex nature of the bladder and develop patient-specific treatment options.
The creation of a digital twin for the bladder presents an opportunity to revolutionize the field, as the bladder is one of the few organs that does not yet have a digital model. This computational model will allow real-time data collection and experimentation with different interventions to optimize treatment decisions. In the future, medical professionals could input an individual’s measurements and clinical information into the model, providing personalized treatment recommendations.
The project, named “A Digital Twin for Designing Bladder Treatment Informed Bladder Outlet Obstruction Mechanobiology (BOOM),” commenced in July 2023. Collaborators from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Sheffield are working together to revolutionize the understanding and treatment of BOO.
– University of Pittsburgh