NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH National Library of Medicine APRIL 1993 The Visible Human Pr

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NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH National Library of Medicine APRIL 1993 The Visible Human Project NLM's Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications has been conducting research into digital imaging for several years. A major effort in this area, the Visible Human Project, intends to create, for health professions education, treatment, and research, complete anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the male and female human body. Background The Visible Human Project has its roots in the Library's 1986 Long- Range Plan. The plan recommended that the NLM should "...thoroughly and systematically investigate the technical requirements for and feasibility of instituting a biomedical images library." It encouraged the NLM to consider building and disseminating medical image libraries much the same way it acquires, indexes, and provides access to the biomedical literature. It foresaw a coming era where NLM's bibliographic and factual database services would be complemented by libraries of digital images, distributed over high- speed computer networks and by high-capacity physical media. Not surprisingly, it saw an increasing role for electronically represented images in clinical medicine and biomedical research. Early in 1989, under the direction of the Board of Regents, an ad hoc planning panel was convened to explore the proper role for the NLM in the rapidly changing field of electronic imaging. After much deliberation, the NLM Planning Panel on Electronic Image Libraries made the following recommendation: "NLM should undertake a first project building a digital image library of volumetric data representing a complete, normal adult male and female. This Visible Human Project will include digitized photographic images for cryosectioning, digital images derived from computerized tomography and digital magnetic resonance images of cadavers [1]." Current Status The current effort under the Visible Human Project is the acquisition of transverse CT, MRI and cryosection images of a representative male and female cadaver at an average of one millimeter intervals. The corresponding transverse sections in each of the three modalities are to be registered with one another. A contract for acquisition of these pixel-based data was awarded in August 1991 to the University of Colorado at Denver. Victor M. Spitzer, Ph.D. and David G. Whitlock, M.D., Ph.D. are the principal investigators. The Visible Human data set will comprise approximately 42 gigabytes of pixel data (uncompressed), which would correspond to about 70 CD-ROMs. The digital cross-sectional images would most likely be made available via the Internet. The larger, long-term goal of the Visible Human Project is to produce a system of knowledge structures that will transparently link visual knowledge forms to symbolic knowledge formats. Methods need to be developed to link image data to such text-based data as names, hierarchies, principles and theories. Standards do not currently exist for such linkages. The project is experimenting with methods that have wide application, like the use of hypermedia where words can be used to find pictures, and pictures can be used as an index into relevant text. Basic research is needed in the description and representation of structures, and the connection of structural- anatomical to functional-physiological knowledge. The goal is to make the print library and the image library a single, unified resource for medical information. For additional information on the Visible Human Project please contact: Dr. Michael J. Ackerman Project Officer, Visible Human Project National Library of Medicine 8600 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20894 [1] National Library of Medicine (U.S.) Board of Regents. Electronic imaging: Report of the Board of Regents. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1990. NIH Publication 90-2197.


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