Mathematical models of the human heart are evolving to become a cornerstone of precision medicine and support clinical decision making by providing a powerful tool to understand the mechanisms underlying pathophysiological conditions. In this study, we present a detailed mathematical description of a fully coupled multi-scale model of the human heart, including electrophysiology, mechanics, and a closed-loop model of circulation. State-of-the-art models based on human physiology are used to describe membrane kinetics, excitation-contraction coupling and active tension generation in the atria and the ventricles. Furthermore, we highlight ways to adapt this framework to patient specific measurements to build digital twins. The validity of the model is demonstrated through simulations on a personalized whole heart geometry based on magnetic resonance imaging data of a healthy volunteer. Additionally, the fully coupled model was employed to evaluate the effects of a typical atrial ablation scar on the cardiovascular system. With this work, we provide an adaptable multi-scale model that allows a comprehensive personalization from ion channels to the organ level enabling digital twin modeling
Background: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is typically caused by mutations in sarcomeric genes leading to cardiomyocyte disarray, replacement fibrosis, impaired contractility, and elevated filling pressures. These varying tissue properties are associ- ated with certain strain patterns that may allow to establish a diagnosis by means of non-invasive imaging without the necessity of harmful myocardial biopsies or con- trast agent application. With a numerical study, we aim to answer: how the variability in each of these mechanisms contributes to altered mechanics of the left ventricle (LV) and if the deformation obtained in in-silico experiments is comparable to values reported from clinical measurements. Methods: We conducted an in-silico sensitivity study on physiological and pathologi- cal mechanisms potentially underlying the clinical HCM phenotype. The deformation of the four-chamber heart models was simulated using a finite-element mechanical solver with a sliding boundary condition to mimic the tissue surrounding the heart. Furthermore, a closed-loop circulatory model delivered the pressure values acting on the endocardium. Deformation measures and mechanical behavior of the heart mod- els were evaluated globally and regionally. Results: Hypertrophy of the LV affected the course of strain, strain rate, and wall thickening—the root-mean-squared difference of the wall thickening between control (mean thickness 10 mm) and hypertrophic geometries (17 mm) was >10%. A reduc- tion of active force development by 40% led to less overall deformation: maximal radial strain reduced from 26 to 21%. A fivefold increase in tissue stiffness caused a more homogeneous distribution of the strain values among 17 heart segments. Fiber disarray led to minor changes in the circumferential and radial strain. A combination of pathological mechanisms led to reduced and slower deformation of the LV and halved the longitudinal shortening of the LA. Conclusions: This study uses a computer model to determine the changes in LV deformation caused by pathological mechanisms that are presumed to underlay HCM. This knowledge can complement imaging-derived information to obtain a more accu- rate diagnosis of HCM.
A variety of biophysical and phenomenological active tension models has been proposed during the last decade that show physiological behaviour on a cellular level. However, applying these models in a whole heart finite element simulation framework yields either unphysiological values of stress and strain or an insufficient deformation pattern compared to magnetic resonance imaging data. In this study, we evaluate how introducing an orthotropic active stress tensor affects the deformation pattern by conducting a sensitivity analysis regarding the active tension at resting length Tref and three orthotropic activation parameters (Kss, Ksn and Knn). Deformation of left ventricular contraction is evaluated on a truncated ellipsoid using four features: wall thickening (WT), longitudinal shortening (LS), torsion (Θ) and ejection fraction (EF). We show that EF, WT and LS are positively correlated with the parameters Tref and Knn while Kss reduces all of the four observed features. Introducing shear stress to the model has little to no effect on EF, WT and LS, although it reduces torsion by up to 3◦. We find that added stress in the normal direction can support healthy deformation patterns. However, the twisting motion, which has been shown to be important for cardiac function, reduces by up to 20◦.
In silico studies are often used to analyze mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias. The electrophysiological cell models that are used to simulate the membrane potential in these studies range from highly detailed physiological models to simplistic phenomenological models. To effectively cover the middle ground between those cell models, we utilize the manifold boundary approxi- mation method (MBAM) to systematically reduce the widely used O’Hara-Rudy ventricular cell model (ORd) and investigate the influence of parametrization of the model as well as different strategies of choosing input quantities, further called quantities of interest (QoI). As a result of the reduction process, we present three re- duced model variants of the ORd model that only contain a fraction of the original model’s ionic currents resulting in a twofold speedup in computation times compared to the original model. We find that the reduced models show similar action potential duration restitution and repolarization rates. Additionally, we are able to initialize and observe stable spiral wave dynamics on a 3D tissue patch for 2 out of the 3 reduced models.
Individualized computer models of the geometry of the human heart are often based on mag- netic resonance images (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans. The stress distribution in the imaged state cannot be measured but needs to be estimated from the segmented geometry, e.g. by an iterative algorithm. As the convergence of this algorithm depends on different geometrical conditions, we system- atically studied their influence. Beside various shape alterations, we investigated the chamber volume, as well as the effect of material parameters. We found a marked influence of passive material parameters: increasing the model stiffness by a factor of ten halved the residual norm in the first iteration. Flat and concave areas led to a reduced robustness and convergence rate of the unloading algorithm. With this study, the geometric effects and modeling aspects governing the unloading algorithm’s convergence are identified and can be used as a basis for further improvement.
In order to be used in a clinical context, numerical simulation tools have to strike a balance between accuracy and low computational effort. For re- producing the pumping function of the human heart numerically, the physical domains of cardiac continuum mechanics and fluid dynamics have a significant relevance. In this context, fluid-structure interaction between the heart muscle and the blood flow is particularly important: Myocardial tension development and wall deformation drive the blood flow. However, the degree to which the blood flow has a retrograde effect on the cardiac mechanics in this multi-physics problem remains unclear up to now. To address this question, we implemented a cycle-to-cycle coupling based on a finite element model of a patient-specific whole heart geometry. The deforma- tion of the cardiac wall over one heart cycle was computed using our mechanical simulation framework. A closed loop circulatory system model as part of the simulation delivered the chamber pressures. The displacement of the endo- cardial surfaces and the pressure courses of one cycle were used as boundary conditions for the fluid solver. After solving the Navier-Stokes equations, the relative pressure was extracted for all endocardial wall elements from the three dimensional pressure field. These local pressure deviations were subsequently returned to the next iteration of the continuum mechanical simulation, thus closing the loop of the iterative coupling procedure. Following this sequential coupling approach, we simulated three iterations of mechanic and fluid simulations. To characterize the convergence, we evaluated the time course of the normalized pressure field as well as the euclidean distance between nodes of the mechanic simulation in subsequent iterations. For the left ventricle (LV), the maximal euclidean distance of all endocardial wall nodes was smaller than 2mm between the first and second iteration. The maximal distance between the second and third iteration was 70μm, thus the limit of necessary cycles was already reached after two iterations. In future work, this iterative coupling approach will have to prove its abil- ity to deliver physiologically accurate results also for diseased heart models. Altogether, the sequential coupling approach with its low computational effort delivered promising results for modeling fluid-structure interaction in cardiac simulations.
Over the last decades, computational models have been applied in in-silico simulations of the heart biomechan- ics. These models depend on input parameters. In particular, four parameters are needed for the constitutive law of Guc- cione et al., a model describing the stress-strain relation of the heart tissue. In the literature, we could find a wide range of values for these parameters. In this work, we propose an optimization framework which identifies the parameters of a constitutive law. This framework is based on experimental measurements conducted by Klotz et al.. They provide an end-diastolic pressure-volume relation- ship. We applied the proposed framework on one heart model and identified the following elastic parameters to optimally match the Klotz curve: 𝐶 = 313 Pa, 𝑏𝑓 = 17.8, 𝑏𝑡 = 7.1 and 𝑏𝑓𝑡 = 12.4. In general, this approach allows to identify optimized param- eters for a constitutive law, for a patient-specific heart geome- try. The use of optimized parameters will lead to physiological simulation results of the heart biomechanics and is therefore an important step towards applying computational models in clinical practice.