NIH News Advisory
National Library of Medicine

Wednesday, September 30, 1998
Bob Mehnert
Kathy Cravedi
(301) 496-6308

What Have Those Visible Humans Been Up To Lately?
Conference showcases remarkable uses of "computerized cadavers"

(BETHESDA, MD) - "Surgical simulators" that let doctors rehearse delicate medical procedures on computer, before encountering human subjects. "Recyclable cadavers" to help medical students learn about anatomy via computer. And "virtual prototyping," the creation of perfectly fitted hip and knee replacements on computer, instead of having to build actual models, thus saving time and expense.

Without question, computers are becoming an increasingly important part of the practice and teaching of medicine. On October 1st, the National Institutes of Health will let you have a sneak preview of medicine as it will be practiced in the next millennium. NIH's National Library of Medicine, which funded the Visible Human Project, will hold a special press briefing Thursday, October 1, 1998, at 11:30 a.m. in the Natcher Conference Center (Building 45) at the National Institutes of Health, to examine fascinating innovations in the practice and teaching of medicine arising from the Visible Human Project. The briefing is part of the 2nd Visible Human Project Conference, October 1-2, which unites computer experts, scientists, and others from around the world to discuss their innovative uses of the Visible Human datasets: vast digital images of a male and a female human body.

The Visible Human Project has been one of the most successful ventures of the National Library of Medicine, the world's largest medical library. Two cadavers, a 39-year-old male and a 59-year-old female, underwent a series of electronic imaging procedures, were frozen rock-solid, encased in gelatin, milled into thousands of slices, and digitally photographed. Since the release of the vast Visible Human Male (1994) and Visible Human Female (1995) datasets, some 1,000 agreements to use the datasets have been awarded for their use in 30 countries.

The press briefing will feature, among other technologies:

"Virtual colonoscopy," a procedure that reduces the time, cost and discomfort associated with a "real" colonoscopy and is expected to be an important tool in screening for colon cancer in coming months;

"Brain surgery rehearsal," a procedure that allows surgeons to practice patient-specific brain surgery before real surgery. The result can be quicker more effective surgery, a healthier patient and lower mortality.

Simulators that allow health professionals to rehearse IV catheterization and bronchoscopy; and the "Visible Human Explorer" which allows the general public to view the Visible Humans with ease.

Video B-Roll/Photos Available Upon Request