Teaching methods in the Medical and Nursing Schools are about to be revolutionized. After ten years of work, the Medical School”s Visible Human Project is almost ready to enter its production phase.
The project in conjunction with the Schools of Nursing, Education and Information, the College of Engineering, the Office of the University”s Chief of Information Officer, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a comprehensive software program that allows viewers to see highly detailed 3-D images of the male and female body from the inside out. Made possible by taking CAT scans and MRI”s of two cadavers, and by the meticulous task of sectioning the bodies in one-millimeter intervals, the Visible Human will the closest thing medical specialists will have to seeing the internal composition of a body without physically entering it.
Medical School Assistant Prof. Brian Athey, the project”s director, emphasized the importance of the project.
“By having a physical human data set available and modeling and simulation software, you can actually practice surgeries over and over again before you have to do it,” he said. “That”s important because we know there”s a lot of errors in medicine.”
Aside from helping to cut down on surgical mishaps, Athey sees the project having far-reaching capabilities in the future. He said plans to anatomically label the Visible Human in as many languages are in the works. Native speakers of a given language would enter the labels via the Internet, and then that information would be deposited back into the main database for public use.
It is also feasible that the Visible Human could be in children”s classrooms in the near future, because, Athey said, “There is no reason why the kids can”t learn. You know, we could make a game out of it, and they”d love it.”
The Visible Human needed a system that would be able to handle the vast amount of output it generates, and the Internet2 provided the solution, Athey said.
All of this information would be difficult to obtain by the standard speeds of today”s Internet, but that”s about to change, Athey said. The Next Generation Internet, or Internet2, can download images faster than anything previously known. The Internet2 team has performed tests wherein the movie “The Matrix” was downloaded over a basic phone line, a digital line (DSL) and a T1 line, which most companies use. For a frame of reference, it took over 170 hours to download the movie through a basic phone line, and over 6 hours with the T1 line. The Internet2 connection performed the task in 30 seconds.
The current system contains over 5,000 color images for the female model and nearly 2,000 for the male model.
“Downloading the Visible Human, we figured the male, back in 1991 was going to take us about 27 days or something, And now, you know, we could do it in a matter of two or three minutes due to our experimental network, Internet2,” Athey said.