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The Visible Human Project Moves from Data to Knowledge.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) has long been a world leader in the archiving and distribution of the print-based images of biology and medicine. NLM has also been a pioneer in the use of computer systems to encode and distribute textual knowledge of the life sciences. NLM's Long-Range Planning effort of 1985-86 foresaw a coming era where libraries of digital images, distributed over high-speed computer networks would complement NLM's Bibliographic and factual database services. The NLM Planning Panel on Electronic Imaging recommended that NLM should undertake the building a digital image library consisting of computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) images, and cryosection images of a representative, carefully selected and prepared male and female cadaver of the Visible Human Project. The male and female Visible Human data sets are now being made available through a license agreement with the NLM. The data sets are supporting a wide range of educational, diagnostic, treatment planning and commercial uses. The NLM, in partnership with other U. S. government research agencies has begun a three prong effort within the Visible Human Project to address: the creation of a new online, interactive, digital head-and-neck atlas; the development of a toolkit of computational programs capable of automatically performing many of the basic data handling functions required for using Visible Human data in applications (ITk); and the improved resolution of future Visible Human data sets through the reduction of the anatomical artifacts introduced by the methods used to stabilize and section the anatomical materials and the development of staining and wide-spectrum methods for increasing tissue contrast. Some of the results of these efforts will become available in 2002.