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MICROCARD: Numerical modeling of cardiac electrophysiology at the cellular scale
MICROCARD is a European research project to build software that can simulate cardiac electrophysiology using whole-heart models with sub-cellular resolution, on future "exascale" supercomputers. It is funded by EuroHPC call Towards Extreme Scale Technologies and Applications. The project will start in April 2021
Cardiovascular diseases are the most frequent cause of death worldwide and half of these deaths are due to cardiac arrhythmia, disorders of the heart's electrical synchronization system. Computer models are essential to understand the behaviour of this complex system and its diseases. These models are already very sophisticated and widely used, but currently they are not powerful enough to take the heart's (2 billion!) individual cells into account. They must therefore assume that hundreds of cells are doing approximately the same thing. Due to this limitation, current models cannot represent the events in aging and structurally diseased hearts, in which reduced electrical coupling leads to large differences in behaviour between neigbouring cells, with possibly fatal consequences.
If we want to model the heart cell by cell, we face a mathematical problem that is 10,000 times larger, and also harder to solve. We will need larger supercomputers than those that exist today, and a lot of inventiveness to solve our problem efficiently on these future machines.
The purpose of the MICROCARD project is to develop a software code that will be able to solve this problem on future "exascale" supercomputers. We will develop algorithms that are tailored to the specific mathematical problem, to the size of the computations, and to the particular design of these future computers, which will probably owe most of their compute power to ultra-parallel computing elements such as Graphics Processing Units. We will not content ourselves with a "proof of concept", but will use the code that we develop to solve real-life problems in cardiology. Therefore the project includes computer experts, mathematicians, and biomedical engineers, and collaborates with cardiologists and physiologists.
The code will be adaptable to similar biological systems such as nerves, and some components will be reusable in an even wider range of applications.
EuroHPC projects are for one half funded by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, and for the other half by the national funding agencies of the project partners. At this time five of the six national organizations have confirmed that they will fund their part of the project.