Research Highlights / Full Story

Students from the College of Health Sciences and Technology and the College of Science have created never-before-seen virtual images of organs, tissues, cells, and molecules.

They've produced 3D images of the pancreas, kidney, spleen, skeleton, nervous system, liver, and ear.

The Human Visualization project began in 2005 under the leadership of Richard Doolittle, vice dean of the College of Health Sciences and Technology, and Paul Craig, head of the School of Chemistry and Materials Science.

"We want to show a human visually from all levels—from the organs to the tissues to the cells to the molecules," says Craig. "We want to look at all levels, because if we look at the impact of a drug on the body, for example, sometimes it's at the molecular level or it may affect the overall nervous system. We would like to be able to show that."

Craig says it's primarily medical illustration students who work on creating the visualizations. Based on current scholarly articles and the known science, the students interpret the processes and then create the images.

Valerie Altounian, a 2013 graduate of the medical illustration program, produced visualizations illustrating how alcohol interferes with the actions of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) inhibitory receptors in the brain. Altounian first created drawings and used Maya 3D software to produce the final visualizations. This project was part of a team effort under the direction of Dr. Caroline Easton, professor of forensic psychology in RIT's College of Health Sciences and Technology, to create visualizations of a range of drug interactions to illustrate the relationship between substance abuse and partner violence.

"The ultimate goal is not only to create videos for doctors treating victims of partner violence, but to educate the victims and their abusers about the impact of the destructive behavior," says Doolittle.

Since the project's inception, Doolittle and Craig have presented the visualizations at various conferences including the American Association of Anatomists and the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management.