What are the major contributions of computational physics to Medicine?


Within the framework of the International Day of Medical Physics, which is celebrated this Sunday, the doctor in Physics Beatriz M. Pabón has highlighted the importance of computational physics in the field of medicine, despite the fact that ‘a priori’ only the advances achieved thanks to nuclear physics, such as radiography, CT, PET, scintigraphy and magnetic resonance are known.

Specifically, computational physics uses the power of computers to simulate, through calculations, the behavior of physical systems, which allows them to be studied without the need for real experiments, which are very expensive and complicated, and sometimes impossible to carry out in practice.

For example, one of the most recent and prominent contributions of computational physics is the modeling and development of vaccines against Covid-19. Through modeling, a biological virus propagation model is generated where data are studied, parameters are extracted to make a physical model, and computationally simulated.

Subsequently, through the use of 3D physical models and the analysis of the physical structure of the virus, the molecules involved in the solution to be inoculated have been designed. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been developed from the generation of certain molecules using a synchrotron, that is, a particle accelerator.

Another achievement has been the creation of digital twins. With the help of these digital twins (virtual versions of objects, processes or people), doctors are able to know the state of health at all times, predict diseases, even before they appear, and therefore avoid them. In addition, they also serve as training for surgeons, since it helps them to perform certain operations, without the need to use a corpse.

Likewise, computational physics has also allowed the design of new drugs. Computational methods help significantly in the development of drugs that are currently in clinical use, since they allow the precise coding of theoretical models and are capable of processing large amounts of information. These simulations help to understand the mechanisms of action of the active principles of drugs, as well as to improve their properties.

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