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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers are creating "digital twins" of coronavirus patients to study long-haul COVID-19.

Why it matters: An estimated 1 in 20 COVID-19 patients are likely to suffer from some long-term effects, but doctors still don't know why or how best to care for them. Digital twins promise to speed efforts to investigate a major medical mystery.

How it works: A digital twin is a virtual representation of an object, a system or, in this case, a long-haul COVID-19 patient.

  • "Digital twins allow you to perform all kinds of testing, but in a virtual simulation," says Jeremy Ford, vice president of strategic giving and social innovation at Dell Technologies.

What's happening: Dell on Wednesday announced a collaboration with i2b2 transSMART Foundation to create and study digital twins of tens of thousands of long-haul COVID-19 patients.

  • Using Dell's computing power and data storage infrastructure, i2b2 transSMART will pull in de-indentified patient data, ranging from hospital records to ongoing information from health wearables.
  • The resulting digital twins will be shared with scientists from more than 200 hospitals and research centers from around the world, who will be able to perform millions of individualized treatment simulations to determine the best possible therapies for patients based on their own medical history, all in a fraction of the time that would be required for real-life trials.
  • The initial round will involve 70,000 digital twins, with the potential to expand to up to 2 million over the next four years.

What's next: "The same kind of approach can be applied in the future to autoimmune disorders, degenerative disorders, cancers and other areas," says Ford.

Go deeper

Aug 13, 2021 - Health

Coronavirus case surges force school closures

Students during the first day of school at Roosevelt Elementary School in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 12. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Several counties across the U.S. have temporarily suspended school because of a surge in coronavirus cases among students and faculty early in the academic year.

Why it matters: Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC this week he believes more schools will close due to COVID-19 than last year because the Delta variant spreads with greater ease than other versions of the virus.

Oregon governor sending 1,500 National Guard troops to assist hospitals

Photo: Nathan Howard via Getty Images

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she is deploying up to 1,500 National Guard troops to support hospitals as Delta continues to reach across the United States.

Why it matters: 733 Oregonians are currently hospitalized with severe cases, including 185 in intensive care, Brown said.

Biden administration offers aid to Florida schools defying DeSantis order

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Photos: Joe Raedle and Win McNamee via Getty Images

The Biden administration is stepping in to offer financial assistance to Florida educators defying Gov. Ron DeSantis' law banning local K-12 mask mandates.

Why it matters: The battle over mask mandates in schools has been brewing for weeks. The Republican governor recently threatened to withhold pay from superintendents and school board members who go against his ban.