Simulating Blood Flow at the Cellular Level

8/6/19 Pratt School of Engineering

Amanda Randles's revolutionary supercomputer blood flow simulator HARVEY is poised to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of human diseases

Simulating Blood Flow at the Cellular Level

Amanda Randles, the Alfred Winborne Mordecai and Victoria Stover Mordecai Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, is developing a massively parallel fluid dynamics simulation called HARVEY capable of modeling the full human arterial system at subcellular resolution. The visionary program is already fostering discoveries that could improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of human diseases.

With a long history of developing and applying high-performance computing to biomedical problems, HARVEY combined Randles’s knowledge of applied physics, computational methods and parallel computing to develop a physiologically accurate model of the movement of red blood cells throughout the body. One of her recent successes mapped 500 billion fluid points using a supercomputer with 1.6 million cores (individual processors), marking the first time a researcher had been able to effectively model the flow of blood at the cellular level.

Former Duke undergraduate turned research associate Harvey Shi is working to create a Graphical User Interface for the program. Once completed, physicians will be able to use virtual reality or augmented reality systems to better understand an individual’s blood flow to make more informed decisions about treatment options such as where to place a stent. Randles is also working to simulate how circulating tumor cells move through the vascular system to predict where they’re likely to end up and begin forming a new tumor. 

For this latter project, Randles was selected to be one of 10 researchers to get an early crack at using Aurora—the nation’s newest and largest supercomputer. Housed at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Aurora will be the nation’s first exascale supercomputer, capable of performing a quintillion calculations per second upon its expected 2021 completion.

Randles ambitious projects have previously also made her one of five finalists for the 2015 Gordon Bell Prize, the top honor in the field of supercomputing; the recipient of the 2017 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Grace Murray Hopper Award; and one of the MIT Technology Review’s top “Innovators Under 35” in 2017.