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NYU introduces virtual human platform to assist medical students

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NYU medical students are using cutting-edge technology to view and interact with simulated 3D anatomical structures.

NYU School of Medicine has introduced its medical students to BioDigital Human, a cutting-edge 3D model which can be used to assist medical training.

As a supplement to the use of cadavers and traditional textbook learning, the 3D platform allows medical students and professionals to interact with realistic organs and underlying structures, which translates in to both a valuable teaching tool and an immediate online method of referencing.

The BioDigital Platform is a 3D solution created to assist in learning about anatomy, disease and treatments.

There are over 3000 scientifically accurate anatomy models, and students are able to virtually dissect anatomy to reveal underlying structures -- in the same manner that traditional learning includes exploring anatomy through the use of cadavers. It is also possible for medical establishments to use customised versions of the software for their staff or students.

According to Greg Condon, from ASIFA magazine:

"Part of what sets BioDigital apart from a television animation studio is their narrow focus and audience. Their models might have a variety of uses, but they know that the doctors need precise detail."

By using 3D glasses, in the same manner as watching a film, greater depth and realism can be achieved to assist students in shifting from the theoretical to the realistic. This platform allows students to immerse themselves within a virtual anatomic world -- and may also help prepare them for their encounters with cadavers.

News Medical reports that Steven B. Abramson, MD, Faculty and Academic Affairs at NYU School of Medicine, views the technology as a valuable teaching tool:

"Students always remember their first cadaver because it brings to life the science they've so fervently studied. The BioDigital Human builds upon this experience by allowing the class to explore anatomical structures in more detail and further their connection with human anatomy. With just a few clicks students can zoom in on an organ, spin it to view from any perspective, reveal and hide layers of muscle, bone, and nerves and use tools to dissect or analyze it as you would with a CT scan. Using this new technology, students and residents can now train in and out of the classroom to practice until they achieve mastery."

The simulated interface allows NYU students to collate information and improve their understanding of human anatomy. Without the need to reference countless textbooks, perform searches, or consult 2D sources, the medical students are now able to find specific information concerning one body region in one reliable resource.

Medical students often find the transition from theory to reality difficult when they take their first faltering steps in to the medical profession. I see this platform as an extremely valuable tool, as it can help with this difficult shift in perspective. Medical students at NYU have an advantage over their peers in the manner that they now have unlimited access to a 'cadaver' -- to practice their skills and increase knowledge in a way that is usually restricted by the supply of medically donated bodies available.

In a virtual environment, users are able to make incisions in skin, manipulate underlying tissue layers, and learn about the structures underneath without causing damage to a human body or being restricted by time factors.

By having the means in which to practice and implement their learning, technology like this may also help improve the standards of medical professionals in the future. Digital environments can be used to note errors before students are introduced to the world of patient care, reduce healthcare costs, and may improve patient outcomes.

Perhaps by having access to scientifically accurate anatomy simulators such as BioDigital Human, it may also become a research tool that can advance scientific breakthroughs in the future.

Photo credit: Flickr

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure