Medical & Biological Uses of CAD

Today Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools are tools being employed to bring about exciting new advances in biological and medical progress, as they are tackling challenges that in the past decades could have only been dreamed of being conquered.

With advanced CAD tools, the hidden worlds of the microscopic biological and tissue phenomenon are now able to be modeled in robust, accurate details for a wide variety of medical and biological purposes, illuminating otherwise invisible biological and medical phenomena.

Using CAD tools, biological models of organs and tissues mimic the geometry and underlying behavioral properties of the biological phenomenon on which the model is based.  Biological tissue models that are fully immersive, virtual reality experiences are now being created.

Model Creation from Medical Imaging Data

It is now technically feasible and relatively easy to use the data generated from medical imaging techniques such as Computer Tomography (CT) scans or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to generate a CAD model.  This technique is now increasingly being used to pre-plan surgeries, specifically ones where some piece of medical equipment or prosthetic is to be implanted into interfacing tissues, bones, or organs.  The idea is that a patient’s unique and complex bone structure can be modeled in a CAD environment from the real-time scan data.  At this point in the workflow, it is then feasible within the CAD environment to design the prosthetic and even digitally perform the surgery.  In this way, the intricate structures of the bone and tissue structures can be used to ensure that the prosthetic is perfectly designed to the requisite bone and tissue structures and fit and function can be determined before the risky act of surgery is ever undertaken.  In this way, a digital surgery is quite literally can be performed.  Not only that, but this type of digital surgery in the CAD realm enables the doctors to test numerous diverse and varied approaches and strategies with the goal of optimizing the surgical procedures to arrive at the best possible solution, and surgeries become more like highly engineered production designs.

The figures above are CAD simulated predictions of the iliac arteries and aorta when a guide wire is inserted. Image from Medical Design Briefs.

Organ and Tissue Simulation

Naturally, the next step beyond the use of CAD tools to simply perform digital surgeries is the modeling and simulation of the biological tissues. This use of modeling technology can make small phenomena very accessible and interactive for training surgeons, doctors, and medical students because it opens up vital bodily organ and tissue systems.  Today, research, medical, and technological enterprises are collaborating to develop realistic models and simulations of organ and tissue systems in the body, with the goal of training surgeons and eventually qualifying new surgical procedures.  For example, this has been done with a significant measure of success on the human heart with the Dassault Systemes’ Living Heart Project.  This project has delivered a dynamic CAD model of the human heart that is already enabling medical professionals in holographic three-dimensional space to rotate a beating heart model and dissect pieces of the model to uncover previously hidden tissue cross-sections.  As other models are built and validated to the tissues and organs they’re seeking to model, the day when pharmaceutical and/or surgical trials will be preliminary qualified by using the aforementioned model to evaluate its procedural effectiveness before undergoing actual human trials is rapidly drawing closer.  Like the heart, there is no shortage of organs and tissues in the human anatomy that functions like components in a machine which would benefit greatly from a CAD model simulation to enable medical professionals to really grasp the inner workings and functionality of the anatomy before touching a scalpel or prescribing a medication.

This is a simulation of the heart with a pacemaker inserted going through a cardiac cycle. Image from Dassault Systemes.

Drug Design: Modelling Molecular Mechanics

While this application is a bit different than what is typically thought of when the term “CAD” is used, it is nonetheless noteworthy. To put it simply, the discipline of computer-aided drug design deals with the complex computational modeling of molecular dynamics in order to predict how pharmaceuticals will interact with the chemical biological anatomy of the human body on a molecule by molecule basis.  In this way, computational models are being employed simulate and sometimes visualize atom-to-atom processes.  Furthermore, they are being used in medicine and drug development to simulate targeted medicine and drug delivery to specific cells at the actual molecular levels where the processes are occurring.  This type of simulation is invaluable because it results in a more robust design of specific targeted drug delivery systems which are employed to get the medicine transported to the exact molecular location where it will be effective.  These targeted delivery systems have the lofty, yet the commendable goal of significantly reducing side effects of specific medications by lowering the required dose, thereby enabling the invention of entirely new drug therapies.

It seems that golden era of CAD modeling in the medical and biological fields might just be beginning.  Admittedly, there was much left unsaid in this quick whirlwind tour of CAD capabilities, and probably the most exciting and futurist capability among them being the 3D “printing” of organic human tissues themselves.  Truly, the once hidden world of human anatomy is now getting clearer by the year, to the unequivocal benefit of humanity.

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    Medical & Biological Uses of CAD

    Today Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools are tools being employed to bring about exciting new advances in biological and medical progress, ...
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  1. nisha gupta

    March 20, 2018 at 4:22 am

    Hello, the whole thing is going perfectly here and of course every one is sharing information, that’s truly good, keep up writing.


  2. Michael K.

    May 15, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you for this article. I am a CAD drafter in the utility design field and I have been very interested in medical applications of CAD technology. I want to study prosthetic and biomedical engineering and want my CAD skills to be some sort of effective bridge to that field and this article was a great read.


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