How the Visible Human Project Was Applied to a Medical Device Application

Posted by Brian Buntz on February 15, 2013

In 1989, planning began for creating an atlas of cross-sectional images from a male and female cadaver. Dubbed the “Visible Human Project,” the undertaking was completed by the mid-1990s.

At a conference session at MD&M West, BioDigital’s cofounder Aaron Oliker explained how the researchers from the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) obtained the male data. “They took an inmate [who had donated his body to science] and they cryofroze him like Han Solo, sliced him into little pieces, photographed him, MRI’d and CT’d him, and put him into a data set.” Incidentally, the female data came from an anonymous donor.

BioDigital, which has developed a comprehensive 3D model of the human body, used that data set in a project that was sponsored by Medtronic known as the CyberHeart. “We took this data set and went through each chamber of the heart to generate a precise model of the heart. Then, we applied motion tracking data to the heart.” Biodigital had a variety of data sets, which it morphed together to improve the accuracy of the models. “We had to combine sheep, dog, and human data and mathematically fit everything together,” Oliker said.

The resulting program can simulate how the heart functions before and after a heart procedure. In addition, it can also be used to view the functioning of a normal heart and compare it to what happens during a heart attack.

Biodigital has worked with a number of medical device companies in addition to Medtronic that have used the software to simulate how their products work.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz