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Thoraxic organs
Thoraxic organs

Abdominal viscera
Abdominal viscera


Curating 3D Anatomical Models from the Visible Human Female Dataset



Completed on:

Tools used:

Kristen Browne¹ ², Anne Altemus² ³

Anatomy students and professionals, biomedical communicators

Aug. 2017

3DSlicer, Pixologic ZBrush, MAXON Cinema4D, Adobe Illustrator

The NLM3D initiative at NIH in Bethesda MD aims to faithfully reconstruct 3D human anatomy based on data from the Visible Human project and other sectional imaging sources. The goals of my internship project during summer 2017 were to further advance the progress and scope of the 3D anatomy curation process. Specifically, I curated sets of organ models from the Visible Human Female dataset through a workflow of image segmentation and reconstructive digital sculpting, and then used them to establish style guides for organ colour and surface characteristics. This internship project was conducted at APDB, Lister Hill National Centre, NLM, NIH.

¹Biomedical Communications, University of Toronto, ²Audiovisual Program Development Branch, LHNCBC, NLM, National Institutes of Health (NIH), ³Medicine as Applied to Art, Johns Hopkins University

Process Work

1. Rationale

This project was part of an research internship at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), part of the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. I envisioned the project to be a set of human anatomy 3D model curations to be used in the proof-of-concept of colour and material standards in the anatomy model library. As such, a variety of tissue types were targeted in the list of anatomical components to be curated.

2. 3D Model Curation

The workflow of curating anatomical components into 3D models was standardized by Kristen Browne, who spearheaded the overarching project called NLM3D. Crude models were extracted in a semi-automated process using image segmentation software. Those models were then cleaned, retopologized, and faithfully remodeled in ZBrush, before they were assembled into bigger organ structure models.

3. Establishing Standards

To use the models I curated for colour and tissue characteristics standards, I collected a sample set of surgical images depicting those tissue types. For tissue colour, I specified a 4-colour swatch for each tissue type, referenced from its respective surgical image. For tissue material characteristics, I conducted iterative render tests in Cinema4D, adjusting for reflectivity and subsurface scattering to achieve close approximations of those tissue types in reference images.

4. Documentation

As part of the project, I documented new and revised methods used throughout my time working on the project. Additionally, I produced a research poster (shown at top of this page) to summarize and present the rationale, methodologies and discussions behind my project. The poster was presented at the NIH Summer Poster Day 2017.


V Spitzer, DG Whitlock. The visible human data set: the anatomical platform for human simulation. Anat Rec, 253 (1998), pp. 49-57

Schuenke, Michael, Schulte, Erik, and Udo Schumacher. 2010. Thieme Atlas of Anatomy, General Anatomy and Musculoskeletal System. Stuttgart: Thieme.