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Visible Human Project

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Author Staff | Publish Date March 6, 2009

More than ten years and thousands of photos later, a unique project is set to be unveiled at the University of Colorado Denver. It’s called the “Visible Human Project.” Scientists thought that people, especially medical students, could better understand how the body works if they were able to take a virtual tour of the inside of the human body. The project, led by the University of Colorado Denver and Vic Spitzer, PhD, director of the Center for Human Simulation at the CU Denver School of Medicine, was made possible with support from the National Library of Medicine. To create the Visible Human, scientists used a calibrated machine to replicate the layers of the body to as small as a one tenth of a millimeter. Each layer was then photographed. The researchers took thousands of pictures and then organized and classified the data to allow users to interactively tour a virtual human body.

Today, a computer program called the Visible Human Dissector, allows users, specifically medical students, to focus on one part of the body, such as the brain, or to look at and study entire systems like muscular layers or skeletal structures. Each organ, muscle or tissue system is displayed with photorealistic color and 3-D enhancement, making it possible to tour the esophagus, explore the heart, or see inside an organ or artery.

The CU Denver School of Medicine was the first medical school in the country to add the Visible Human Dissector to the Integrated Anatomy Lab as part of the first-year medical school curriculum in 2003 allowing students to see thousands of 3-D views of a virtual human body and its parts while simultaneously working in the anatomy lab. The many virtual views paired with the cross-sectional anatomy of the actual structures allow students to see and understand spatial relations of organs, tissues or structures, as well as compare various views and cross sections to the single view they often have in the anatomy lab.