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Optimizing Recovery

A new computer model could soon help researchers determine how best to treat patients during the early stages of heart disease and how to promote healing after surgery or stroke. Using data from previously published research, Thomas Skalak and his colleagues devised more than 50 rules that, together, can predict how cells involved in the development of new blood vessels will respond to stimuli such as growth proteins or drugs. Skalak, the chair of the biomedical engineering department at the University of Virginia, hopes the model will help researchers figure out which existing or potential drugs-and what specific sequence of drugs-will stimulate new vessels to form in tissue damaged by injury or disease. “I consider it a breakthrough,” says Steve Burbeck, a senior researcher at IBM Life Sciences. “This model can highlight therapeutic regimens that you would never find by trial and error.” A patent for the model is pending, and Skalak is seeking a pharmaceutical company or startup with which to partner.