THE VISIBLE HUMAN: a complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional scan of the male and female human body.

THE VISIBLE HUMAN: a complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional scan of the male and female human body.

How was this done? The male cadaver was frozen in gelatin and cut horizontally at 1 mm intervals into 1,871 slices and photographed to give 65 GB of high resolution images. The female was cut at 0.3 mm intervals resulting in ~40 GB of data. In addition, the bodies were scanned by CT (computer assisted tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

If that wasn’t macabre enough: Both bodies were donated to science but because the donors did not know their specific use and the male died by lethal injection, ethical issues have been raised. Also, these are not perfect bodies. The male lacks one testicle. The female shows signs of cardiovascular disease.

Art and Anatomy: Artist Lisa Nilsson was inspired by the images to create painstakingly realistic replicas with rolled up paper, an art form known as quilling. Her artwork takes weeks to create and sells for up to $7,000.

See the slide show here:

Watch complete scan (1:15 min) in HD: it is stunning The visible human project – Male (HD)

Sponsored by the US National Library of Science (NLM), the goal of this ambitious project was to facilitate scientific discovery and teaching of anatomy.

H/T to Daniel Mariani who found the animated gif from Reddit (original creator unknown). Chad Haney knows way more about imaging than I do.


This entry was posted in Rajini Rao. Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to THE VISIBLE HUMAN: a complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional scan of the male and female human body.

  1. U-Ming Lee says:

    Oh, I remember this project! I was a medical student at the time and this would have helped me greatly with my anatomy studies. It only came out after I left the subject, though. Who knows, if it was around, I might have been excited enough to stick with the programme. πŸ™‚

  2. Dru Morgan says:

    Looks like what I saw at the Body World exhibit.

  3. Trudy Conway says:

    It’s an inadequate reaction, but WOW.

  4. Not to nitpick, but the male has both testicles – see the linked Youtube video which goes a little more slowly. I worked with 3D reassemblies of this dataset for a television program years ago.

  5. Rajini Rao Thanks again, Rajini, for bringing science to a larger audience in a fascinating, understandable way. Kudos to you, Madame Scientist.

  6. Chad Haney says:

    Dru Morgan Body Worlds is freakin awesome but totally different. Body Worlds uses a proprietary plasticizer that they infuse into the body. That allows them to selectively peel away various tissues/organs.

    Thanks for the mention Rajini Rao

    U-Ming Lee when the project came out in the late 90s there wasn’t the same graphics power that we have now, let alone the Internet connection speeds that have (sort of) improved since then. In the beginning many people could not fully utilize the info even though it is public.

  7. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m not an expert on testicles, Dave Pentecost , I was quoting from the Wiki entry: “The male has only one testicle, is missing his appendix, and has tissue deterioration at the site of lethal injection. Also visible are tissue damage to the dorsum of each forearm by formalin injection and damage to the right sartorius from opening the right femoral vein for drainage. The male was also not “cut” while in standard anatomical position, so the cuts through his arms are oblique.” They don’t provide a citation, though. Perhaps the NLM site does. I’ve not worked on this data set so you would know better.

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    Drew Sowersby , the linked YouTube video is much better in resolution and goes slower too.

  9. Not an expert, but at :38-:39 in the youtube video it is pretty clear.

  10. Chad Haney says:

    Dave Pentecost look at the elipsoid tan object. There’s only one.

  11. looks like modern art to me

  12. Rajini Rao says:

    At 0:40 in the YouTube video, the section through the testis is clear. There is only one on the right side of the view (left of the cadaver).

  13. Ricky Pike says:

    Awesome. It’s just a matter of time before #TesticleTalk on Google+ trends! πŸ™‚

  14. alom ferrer says:

    lol…Ricky Pike!..hahaha

  15. Rajini Rao says:

    Anatomically accurate #TesticleTalk, if you please Ricky Pike πŸ™‚

  16. Chad Haney says:

    Except hashtags in comments are not searchable in public posts.

  17. Rajini Rao says:

    Feisal Kamil , just playin’ to my G+ audience. Let’s just say that I have the testicles to get reads for #ScienceSunday πŸ™‚

  18. Jan Moren says:

    Well the bodies are not perfect, but really, how many are? How many adults are completely without any anatomical oddities or damage, and then add that they are scannable because they’re no longer alive and presumably so for a reason.

    On the other hand, I would raise an ethical eyebrow at the idea that a death-row inmate is capable of making an uncoerced, informed decision about anything surrounding their own death.

  19. Rajini Rao says:

    Jan Moren , the only way to overcome the “perfection” problem in the data set is to scan many more bodies. Since this is instructional, one cannot take the risk of extrapolating some anatomical detail from one specimen.

    The story re. the donor is that he agreed to donate his body to science after talking to the prison chaplain. That part sounds okay to me. I don’t know if informed consent evidence is readily available. The ethical aspect is that he did not know what his body would be used for, for one. Also, other countries are ethically opposed to capital punishment and University of Vienna actually asked that the images be withdrawn on the basis that medical profession should have no association with executions.

  20. Jan Moren says:

    Of course it’s important to create a data set like this representing an average, or perfect specimen.

    On the other hand, I do see a value in this if people such as medical students see one actual person like this, and see that each and every one really differs from the average and the standard in various ways.

  21. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao OK I’m starting to make a list for my “sister post”. I think I need to talk about what an atlas is in the medical visualization community. Please hold.

  22. I retract my objection. I was distracted by the Corpus cavernosum, which is two columns of tissue.

  23. Rajini Rao says:

    That is a distracting column of tissue indeed, no worries Dave Pentecost .

  24. Chad Haney says:

    Dave Pentecost I hope you don’t feel we all jumped on you. It’s possible we were replying at the same time, hence 3 people correcting you at the same time.

  25. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao just ask Anthony Weiner. Wait, Feisal Kamil is supposed to provide the R-rate references.

  26. Rajini Rao says:

    Shhh..he’s busy listening to Jason Yang do the GOT cover. I may yet get away without him noticing.

  27. Chad Haney says:

    As promised, the sister post is here. I have links to interactive software spawned by the Visible Human Project.

    Since I refer to Rajini Rao post in my post, I wonder if I should change my title to the Inception post.

  28. Rajini Rao says:

    Peter Lindelauf , it is particularly chilling in the YouTube video (link), no doubt aided by the atmospheric music. I got goosebumps. Let me know if you agree.

  29. Rajini Rao says:

    Oh no, I’m sorry! I think it is chillingly beautiful πŸ™‚

  30. Rajini Rao says:

    At least you are unflinchingly honest.

  31. Reminds me of the deli.

  32. Rajini Rao says:

    Very true, I was wondering who would bring that up, Dave Pentecost . I’m a vegetarian but even I can recognize the similarity to ham, perhaps? Startling, I think.

  33. Wow!! That’s really awesome! A great way to look into our anatomy πŸ˜€

  34. awesome………………..

  35. For some disturbing reason, this reminds me that BBQ season has begun.

  36. The paper art is really neat. By the way, how come the female slice is so much thinner?

  37. Rajini Rao says:

    Albert Cheung , the squilling technique was used really effectively, I agree! My best guess to your question is that the female cadaver was done a year later by which time they must have wanted greater resolution. A technical advance, I think. I can’t imagine any anatomical reason for having more sections to one gender. Perhaps, Chad Haney can comment.

  38. Chad Haney says:

    Albert Cheung I don’t remember if it’s in the Wiki or the NLM website, but yes. There was about a year gap between the male and female. The technology improved. Just image how computer and smartphones change in a few months, let a lone a year.

    To the people that think this is old because it’s from the 90’s or not relevant today, it was in some sense ahead of the technology. That’s why I posted about the software side. That is still ongoing but the Human Visualization project was the seed.

  39. Rajini Rao says:

    I can imagine the impact of 3D digital applications to medical school teaching, as just one example Chad Haney . A virtual tour of the human body. Then there are those virtual caves where you can walk in and explore the insides of a molecule (for teaching) or a body (for diagnosis) for example. Have you heard/seen those? I have a colleague, Harel Weinstein, at Weill Cornell medical center who was involved in one of these.

  40. Chad Haney says:

    My pal and colleague Christian Wietholt works for Visage one of the companies that builds those 3D virtual “caves”.

  41. Rajini Rao says:

    Here’s the one I referenced:

    Possible G+ post collaboration, Chad Haney ? πŸ™‚

  42. Yes, the Amira VR option is capable of rendering your data in a cave settings. It allows head tracking to make your experience fully immersive. So far I have only experienced it on a 3 panel, semi-circular display. Each panel powered by a projector pair for passive stereoscopy. This was already amazing, and the data was floating in the room, similar to those holographic displays often featured in Sci-Fi movies. Such a setup is probably more suitable for a large audience than a cave. The cave needs to keep track of your head, in order to render the scene on each panel in the correct perspective. Since the displays can only render one perspective at a time, all other viewers in the audience would see the images slightly wrong. The error would increase with the distance to the main observer caring the head tracking device.

  43. +Rajini Rao, thank you for the Fox News link. This would certainly be possible with Amira VR, you might even be seeing a rendering by Amira, but I would have to ask my co-worker.

  44. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks for the information, Christian Wietholt . Let me know if Amira is involved in Harel’s project. It would be cool to know πŸ™‚

  45. Rajini Rao, no problem, I am happy to provide you with more details. About the Fox News article, it seems very likely that Amira has been used there. That’s all I can tell you for now.

  46. Chad Haney says:

    Christian Wietholt get to work on that CAVE Wiki if Visage belongs there.

  47. True, that would be a next step. I would like to wait until we have our own Amira Wiki out there, before starting with additions to the CAVE Wiki. I will put it in my to-do list.

  48. Chad Haney says:

    I didn’t read it carefully but it sees that Amira VR would belong on the CAVE Wiki. Maybe your bosses want it on first πŸ˜‰

  49. You are absolutely right, and once our Amira Wiki is up, I will go through Wikipedia and probably place a link to the Amira Wiki on all related websites. I will certainly announce the Amira Wiki here, once it is out there.

  50. Rajini Rao Chad Haney Feisal Kamil , thank you very much for the comment, that sounds reasonable, and as a matter of fact, based on today’s tech, even 0.3mm is actually too thick.

  51. ur pics are sooo good………….

  52. Rajni have you read this book can a modern scientific analysis be done on it

  53. Abi Malar says:

    my fav subject is biology. in such a way ur sharing was graet info to me. thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s