10 September 2019        

Category: Research

Have you ever wondered how it feels to stand inside a pumping heart? Experience the immersive installation Kalostasis from 14 to 22 September 2019 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, as part of the London Design Festival.


Kalostasis is an installation that takes you on a journey inside the aorta, the largest artery in our body, to observe the powerful, pulsing flow of blood out of the heart. This installation is a collaboration between BHF- and Wellcome-funded researcher Dr Pablo Lamata, Cellule Studio and Lucy Hardcastle Studio and is supported by the British Heart Foundation and Evelina Children's Heart Organisation.

Kalostasis translates scientific data into an immersive experience through sight, sound and touch. It aims to make visible the beauty and complexity of the flow of blood that keeps us alive, and our body's ability to maintain a state of balance with every beat.

Standing inside the installation will replicate what happens when there is narrowing in the aortic valve of the heart. Watch and feel how your presence causes stress to the blood flow around you.

The research behind the exhibition

The permanent motion of blood keeps us alive. Each day, our heart beats around 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 litres of blood around the body. The aorta, the largest artery in the body, is responsible for transporting blood to every cell in the body.

With some conditions, such as aortic valve stenosis, our blood flow can be partially obstructed causing turbulent and irregular flow. When this happens, the heart needs to work a lot harder to meet the body's demands. Over time, this strain can lead to heart failure.

BHF- and Wellcome-funded researchers at King's College London are using MRI to visualise blood flow in 3D. Now, using new computer technologies, Dr Pablo Lamata and his team are able to accurately analyse the blood flow in people with aortic stenosis.

In the future, this will make it possible to better measure the extra burden caused to the heart by flow obstructions. It will also improve clinicians' approach to decision-making around treatment and timing of operations.

"Cardiac flow is so beautiful and inspiring. Technology now allows us to visualise it with exquisite detail, and to sense pressure drops inside the heart remotely. Our blue sky research vision is the digital twin of each patient's heart, a computational representation that integrates individual's data with our knowledge of physics and physiology, to further improve cardiac healthcare." – Dr Pablo Lamata

The stories behind the research

Louise Tobin

Dr Pablo Lamata and his team engaged with people who have aortic stenosis, like Louise and Phil, to help shape Kalostasis.

"I was born with congenital heart problems, but it wasn't picked up until I was 5 years old by the NHS medical van that used to come round to the schools and screen you, and they first detected a murmur. I then remember being tired and missing school quite a bit.

In 1988, when I was 12, I had my first open heart surgery. I also had a leaky mitral valve as a consequence of that surgery, and in 2010, I had an angioplasty ring put in that valve. I still go back to be monitored yearly for that.

I didn't enjoy the surgeries, I have to say, but afterwards you do feel amazing. I don't think you realise how poorly you are until you have it done. I'm living science, I suppose, in some ways." – Louise Tobin

PhilDr Lamata and his team used this insight to also help shape their research, which uses MRI scans to visualise blood flow. During an MRI scan, you lie on a flat bed that's moved into the scanner, which is a large tube containing magnets.

Both Louise and Phil expressed how scary it can be to lie inside an MRI scanner. So much so that "focusing on people's fears over being in this narrow tube for 40 minutes should be a priority.– Phil Blakelock

Suggestions like this helped Dr Lamata and his team to better understand how it feels to live with valve disease and how best to bring to life the Kalostasis installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Find out more about aortic stenosis