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Simulated Patients Can Reduce Time and Cost of Clinical Trials

Researchers successfully replicated the outcomes of traditional clinical trials of a medical device using virtual patient populations

Photo portrait of Erica Tennenhouse, PhD
Erica Tennenhouse, PhD

Erica Tennenhouse, PhD, was the managing editor of Today's Clinical Lab (formerly Clinical Lab Manager) from 2018 to 2022. Erica is a freelance writer and has written for National Geographic, Scientific American, New Scientist, Science, and Discover.

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Published:Jun 24, 2021
|1 min read
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Clinical trials are costly and often take years to complete, but in silico trials that rely on simulated patient populations could offer a faster and cheaper solution. A proof-of-concept study published June 23 in Nature Communications found that an in silico trial was as effective as traditional trials involving real patients in evaluating a medical device used to treat brain aneurisms.

The researchers aimed to replicate the results of three previous clinical trials on the effectiveness of flow diverters—devices used to manage intracranial aneurisms—with an in silico trial. 

For the in silico trial, the researchers created digital simulations of patient groups that closely resembled the patients included in the previous flow diverter trials in terms of age, sex, and aneurism characteristics. They then built a computer model that analyzed how the flow diverter could affect blood flow in each of the 164 virtual patients.

The results predicted that a flow diverter could successfully treat 82.9 percent of the virtual patients with normal blood pressure, which is similar to the findings of the three conventional trials, in which 86.8 percent, 74.8 percent, and 76.8 percent of patients were successfully treated with the device. 

The researchers concluded that in silico trials hold great promise, as they can replicate the findings of traditional clinical trials in a fraction of the time it normally takes, and at a fraction of the usual cost.