Virtual rat

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The Virtual Physiological Rat (VPR) project got its start in 2011 with a five-year, $13 million grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health [1]. The project is motivated by the fact that, although there exist both a depth of knowledge of basic cardiovascular physiology and a host of physiological and genomic data from animal models of disease, we lack an understanding of how multiple genes and environmental factors interact to determine cardiovascular phenotype.

The Virtual Physiological Rat Project is focused on developing computational tools to capture the underlying systems physiology as well as the pathophysiological perturbations associated with disease. These tools are being developed and validated based on experimental characterization of physiological function across a number of organ systems in rat strains engineered to show relevant disease phenotypes. Computer simulation is used to integrate disparate data (genomic, anatomic, physiological, etc.) to explain and predict function, and to translate the findings from animal models to yield new information on specific interrelated complex diseases in humans, including hypertension, kidney disease, heart failure, and metabolic syndrome.

The aim of the project is to simulate the integrated cardiovascular function of the rat, and to build validated computer models that account for genetic variation across rat strains and physiological response to environment (i.e., diet). New strains of genetically engineered rat will be developed with the ultimate goal of using computer models to predict the physiological characteristics of not yet realized genetic combinations, derive those combinations in the lab, and then test the predictions.


  1. Beard DA, Pettersen KH, Carlson BE et al. (2013) A computational analysis of the long-term regulation of arterial pressure [v1; ref status: approved 1, approved with reservations 1,] F1000Research 2013, 2:208 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.2-208.v1) [Beard2013b]
    we need to investigate/reproduce this model
  2. Beard DA, Neal ML, Tabesh-Saleki N, Thompson CT, Bassingthwaighte JB, Shimoyama M, and Carlson BE. Multiscale modeling and data integration in the virtual physiological rat project. Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 Nov;40(11):2365-78. DOI:10.1007/s10439-012-0611-7 | PubMed ID:22805979 | HubMed [Beard2013a]
  3. Bugenhagen, SM. (2013) The Role of Metabolic Dysfunction in Heart Failure. Cardiac Physiome Workshop, Bar Harbor, ME, October 17, 2013. [Bugenhagen2013]
    MS Power Point[1], contains a lot of interesting references
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