Fun_People Archive
29 Nov
Big body database

Date: Tue, 29 Nov 94 16:56:36 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: Big body database

[If you thought Gray's Anatomy was a big book...  -psl]

Forwarded-by: elshaw@MIT.EDU (Libby Shaw)
From: Brian E. Bradley <>

Subject: Digital Cadaver On Internet
Copyright: 1994 by The Associated Press, R

        CHICAGO (AP) -- Sixteen months ago, a killer was executed in
Texas. On Monday, his body is a teaching tool for the world, made
available on the Internet as the first three-dimensional,
computerized cadaver.
        The ``Visible Man'' is a detailed atlas of the human body,
assembled digitally from thousands of X-ray, magnetic and photo
images of cross-sections of the body.
        The National Library of Medicine is unveiling the ``Visible
Man'' today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of
North America.
        ``This is the first time such detailed information about an
entire human body has been compiled,'' said Dr. Donald A.B.
Lindberg, director of the library, which is the equivalent of the
Library of Congress for medical matters.
        The digitalized cadaver will be available free to anyone who
gets permission from the library. But the data is so extensive that
downloading it takes up to two weeks of uninterrupted time on the
Internet, and up to 15 gigabytes of storage space, enough to
accommodate about 50 times the contents of The Encyclopedia
        The information would fill more than 30 typical personal
computers and is expected to be sought mainly by medical schools
and researchers, said Michael Ackerman, a computer specialist with
the library.
        The ``Visible Man'' will be an immediate teaching tool for
medical students, and in the future, it could be used to develop
surgery simulators much like the flight simulators used to train
pilots today, he said.
        ``We hold this out as an example of the future of health care
... which more and more will become visual rather than textual,''
Ackerman said in an interview. ``It's a whole different way of
looking at medicine.''
        Commercial ventures also hope to capitalize on the ``Visible
Man,'' Ackerman said; one idea is ``Fantastic Voyage: The Game,''
based on the Isaac Asimov book that was later made into a movie, in
which a group of scientists is miniaturized and injected into the
bloodstream of a dying man.
        The library is spending $1.4 million to develop the ``Visible
Man'' and a ``Visible Woman,'' which is still more than a year
away, said Victor Spitzer, a computer-imager and anatomist at the
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, where the
imaging was done.
        The work began on Aug. 5, 1993, several hours after the
execution by injection of Joseph Paul Jernigan, 39, an ex-mechanic
who killed a 75-year-old man during a burglary. The body was flown
to Colorado and underwent hours of CAT and MRI scans.
        Then it was sawed into four pieces and each was frozen in
gelatin. One at a time, each piece was attached to a special table
and slowly raised under a special planing tool called a
        The instrument, designed especially for cutting cadavers, shaved
away cross-sections of the cadaver 1 millimeter -- a total of 1,870
cross sections from head to toe. Each newly exposed layer of
cadaver was photographed and scanned into a computer by a digital
        The digital photos were stacked and programmed into an imaging
computer along with the data acquired from the CAT and MRI scans.
        Conwell Anderson, an associate professor of anatomy and cell
biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of
Medicine, said the project ``looks terrific.''
        The ``Visible Man'' probably will be most useful for surgeons
and radiologists looking for new solutions to old problems --
students may be overwhelmed with more information than they can
handle, he said.

------- End of Forwarded Message

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []