When a patient undergoes a bone transplant—for example, during total hip replacement surgery—it can be difficult for doctors to predict how he or she will respond. Many transplants are successful, although a significant percentage result in complications because of specific physiological features that distinguish one individual from another.
To address this problem, Schneider is compiling a representative database of bone tissue samples from large numbers of patients. Using Hazel Hen, a Cray computing platform operated by the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS), he then simulates bone microstructures and their interactions with transplants to understand how differences in tissues among individuals can lead to different outcomes. The goal is to help doctors provide personalized implants that would be optimized for the bone characteristics of individual patients.
As a new article on the Cray website explains:
"You'll get an idea of what bone elasticities for people in particular ranges look like," he says. "So when you have a patient with no bone tissue sample you can compare his bone density with the samples you already have and you can say, 'Okay, he's most likely to have this stiffness so I'll use this stiffness parameter, then I can calculate the strains and bone remodeling correctly.'"
Schneider calls the planned database a "decision support system." And while these micromechanical simulations aren't large, resolving each tissue sample will require 120,000 individual simulations. Schneider says: "I want to help surgeons with this wonderful simulation, and I couldn't do it without supercomputing. On a workstation I would be calculating for years. With HPC I do it in a day. It's a perfect tool for it."