The robot is helping to determine the effectiveness of masks, air purifiers and other products used to reduce the risk of transmission. Image: Liisa Mäkinen

Finnish scientists deepen understanding of COVID-19

An artificial human head is helping to investigate transmission in Finland and support is also underway to help identify those most at risk from the virus.

Aleksi Teivainen

09.02.2021

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has built an artificial human head to investigate the mechanisms of droplet and aerosol transmission of the novel coronavirus. The artificial head is capable of breathing, coughing and sneezing out specific and repeatable consistencies of droplets and aerosols, thus helping to determine the effectiveness of masks, air purifiers and other products used to reduce the risk of transmission. The coughing robot has been set up in a test room where external factors such as temperature, ventilation and humidity can be determined precisely.

The droplet and aerosol measurements will be used to verify previous simulations and develop virological diagnostic methods for direct airborne measurements.

Carried out in partnership with Tampere University and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the effort has been granted around 300 000 euros in funding by Business Finland. A more business-driven follow-up project is currently being prepared to forge international business and export opportunities for Finnish companies.

“In this more extensive project, we aim to create research co-operation among a wide range of actors,” said Jari Erkkilä of Tamlink, who serves as the director of a joint indoor air ecosystem in Finland. “In addition to the current pandemic, we are […] amassing preparedness and expertise for future pandemics.”

Illustration of doctor and COVID-19

The collaboration seeks to identify a procedure for predicting the symptoms and outcomes of infections based on the health records of patients. Image: Adobe

Elsewhere, THL has also provided data on patients who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus virus for an international research effort to develop a precision prediction model for identifying those most at risk from the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19 The goal of the project is to identify a procedure for predicting the symptoms and outcomes of infections based on the health records of patients by analysing the data with the disease stratification algorithms of Japan’s RIKEN and the analytics platform of BC Platforms.

“Our hope is, together, we will gain insights into exactly who is at risk of COVID-19 and why at a molecular and genetic level, so society can better allocate resources to those who most need them to survive the pandemic,” summed up Markus Perola, the research director at THL.

“Systematic data sharing in a safe and secure manner is crucial in our fight against COVID-19,” added Tero Silvola, the CEO of BC Platforms, which carries out its research and development operations in Espoo, Finland.

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