Few flows are more integral to our well-being than blood flow through the heart. Over the course of our lives, our hearts develop from a few cells pushing viscous blood through tiny arteries to the muscular center of a vast circulatory network, capable of powering us through incredible physical feats. What’s most astonishing about all this is that the heart goes through all these changes and adaptations without ever pausing. 

Peering into the heart to see it in action is difficult, but researchers today are combining imaging techniques like CT and MRI with computational fluid dynamics to build patient-specific heart models. Not only does this help us understand hearts in general; it’s paving the way toward predicting how a specific treatment may affect a patient. Imagine, for example, being able to simulate and compare different models of an artificial heart valve to see which will work best for a particular patient. We’re not to the point of doing so yet, but it’s a very real possibility in the future. 

To see some examples of predicted and measured heart flows, check out this video by J. Lantz. In the meantime, happy Valentine’s Day! (Image credits: Linköping University Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Group, video source; via Another Fine Mesh)