Not for the faint-hearted! Medical website lets you virtually dissect dead bodies
It may be a grisly affair, but for centuries, the only way for aspiring medics to learn about anatomy was to dissect corpses.
Now, there is another way, as medical students can use ‘virtual dissection software’ to explore the human body in the absence of real corpses, which are in short supply.
While they may not get the sensation of cutting human flesh, the virtual tool claims to be cheaper and faster than using cadavers.
Warning: Graphic images. Scroll down for video
Medical students can use 'virtual dissection software' to perform dissections in the absence of real bodies, which are in short supply. A real corpse and the body's muscles is pictured. The Anatomedia website shows a demo video and screenshots. To use the tool, users must request access from the university
The tool provides:
The software is called Anatomedia and claims to be a 'comprehensive, self-paced learning programme that explores anatomy from four different perspectives,’ in order to teach students how the body is constructed. It even allows people to complete practical dissections and post mortems, as well as being able to see ‘sections’ of the human body.
Users can see detailed dissections of real bodies, coloured overlays of specific structures and choose different perspectives from which to view the anatomy they are interested in.
The Australian makers of the learning tool said that users do not need any prior knowledge of anatomy to use the tool, and that labels that pop up over the images can be selected at any level of difficulty.
The Anatomedia website shows a demo video and screenshots. To use the tool, users must request access from the university via this site.
The software is called Anatomedia and claims to be a 'comprehensive, self-paced earning programme that explores anatomy from four different perspectives,' which teaches students how the body is constructed. Here, a tutorial explains how to remove the lungs and identify features behind them
The tool was the brainchild of Norman Eizenberg, an associate professor at Monash University in Australia and has been 20 years in the making.
He made the database because the time spent in dissection and tutorials is being reduced in medical schools, and there are typically 80 students sharing each cadaver.
‘Anatomedia bridges the educational gap by providing students with a detailed anatomy resource to use before, during and after their practicals,’ according to the website.
‘It allows them to make better use of their time and to focus on areas of clinical significance and anatomy relevant to practical procedures.’
The tool was developed by Norman Eizenberg an associate professor at Monash University in Australia and has been 20 years in the making. As well as views of real corpses, it includes X-rays such as this one which shows how men and womens' pelvises differ
Professor Eizenberg told Digital Trends that it takes days to clear away the fat and fibres of a corpse, but this process can be done with a few clicks in the programme and each screen on Anatomedia represents a week’s worth of dissection.
'The tool can also be used by medical practitioners to explain anatomical issues to patients and its layer-by-layer dissections offer an excellent alternative in countries where dissection is not performed for cultural or other reasons,’ the company said.
In the future, it could even be used in the creation of a ‘virtual human’ that students can feel, as programmers assign tactile qualities to the database of photos using a programming language.
Professor Eizenberg said it takes days to clear away the fat and fibres of a corpse, but this process can be done with a few clicks in the programme and each screen on Anatomedia represents a week's worth of dissection. Here, different tissues are coloured in the pelvic wall
The tool can also be used by medical practitioners to explain anatomical issues to patients. It includes diagrams of how children develop (pictured), for example
POSSIBLE FUTURE APPLICATIONS
The visual database could be used to create a 'virtual human' that students could feel if programmers assign tactile qualities to photos.
Two experts want to make a human that medical students could see on a screen but feel the sensations of conducting a dissection, from slicing through wobbly fat to moving blood vessels.
They envisage that such a model would use a model to apply forces and vibrations to a user, replicating the rigidity of a scalpel slicing through flesh, while they are watching footage on a computer screen.
There is currently no funding for the project, or a date when it could be realised.
Former Nasa consultant Robert Rice, together with a chief executive of a sensing and simulation technology company, plan to use the tool to create a 3D virtual human that students can see on a screen and feel the sensations of conducting a dissection, from slicing through wobbly fat to moving blood vessels.
They envisage that such an innovation would use a model to apply forces and vibrations to a user, replicating the resistance to a scalpel, while they are watching footage on a computer screen.
Dr Rice said: ‘We’ll offer multi-touch, both-hands haptics which invokes the remarkable human sense of touch, sensitivity and meaning.’
‘You will feel the texture of skin, the firmness of an athletic muscle or the flabbiness of belly fat, the rigidity of your bony elbow or the pulsatile flow of blood at your wrist pulse point.’
While such a project would cost around $15million (£8 million) to develop, the innovators think it could save medical schools money in the long run, as a cadaver lab can cost up to $4million (£2.4 million) to run every year.
There is no indication when the technology could be realised and the duo have yet to secure investment for their idea.
The tool allows students to complete practical dissections and post mortems, as well as being able to see 'sections' of the human body. This screenshot shows a woman's pelvic cavity, including the ureter and ovary
Infographics reveal truth behind strange effects of certain foods
Natural food may be healthier than processed, but some can have strange effects on our bodies.
the unexpected chemistry behind some foods - revealing why coffee tastes bitter and chocolate is toxic to dogs.
'Chemistry gets a pretty bad reputaion at times, with the word "chemicals" too often used to denote something bad. I want to show that chemicals are in fact in everything, in all the foods we eat and responsible for some pretty interesting effects,' he told MailOnline. He also sells his creations from his Compound Interest blog.
For example, asparagus causes the urine of some – but not all – people to smell and for 40 years scientists have tried to pinpoint the chemical compounds responsible. While there is no definite verdict, it is thought they are all compounds formed by the breakdown of asparagusic acid. It is only found in asparagus and scientists think it is metabolised in the body to produce the volatile compounds found in the urine after consuming the vegetable.
A technique called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to analyse the gas nearby urine after the consumption of the vegetable, which showed odour-causing compounds were produced not usually found in normal urine.
What a whiff: Asparagus causes the urine of some - but not all - people to smell and for 40 years scientists have tried to pinpoint the chemical compounds responsible. While there is no definite verdict, it is thought they are all a form of asparagusic acid
Feeling hot: The spiciness of chilli is due to the presence of compounds called capsaicinoids, which cause a burning sensation when they come into contact with mucous membranes
The primary compounds present, in quantities a thousand times greater than in normal urine, were methanethiol and dimethyl sulfide. The compounds dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone were also found and might modify the aroma to give it a ‘sweet’ edge.
The ability to smell asparagus-influenced urine is not universal and research has shown that two out of 31 people could not detect the difference in smell. It has also been proven that not all people produce smelly urine after eating asparagus.
The chemist also explained why onions make humans cry. None of the compounds that cause people’s eyes to water are present in an intact onion, but when the cell walls are damaged by chopping, an enzyme produces a range of compounds as a defence mechanism, which act as irritants.
In the mood: Phenylethylamine is called the 'love drug' and occurs in the brain - as well as in chocolate. It is known to cause feelings of contentment but as the compound is broken down after it is eaten, scientists believe it doesn't have an aphrodisiac effect
Sourpuss: The sour taste of lemons is caused by organic acids, the most prevalent of which is citric acid, followed by Malic acid, which adds to the fruit's tangy taste
There are a wide range of compounds produced by these reactions and if the onion is eaten, they are broken down into allyl methyl sulphide, which can be removed from the body by exhalation – giving rise to the characteristic ‘onion breath’.
The scientist also explains why nutmeg has been used as a hallucinogen since the 16th century.
Myristicin makes up around one per cent of raw nutmeg and scientists think it leads to the effect because of the breakdown of the compound in the liver into MMDA, a drug of the amphetamine class and a known psychedelic.
However, the spice also has undesirable effects such as vomiting, flushing and an elevated heart rate that can last for several days.
Red, not purple: A family of chemical compounds is the reason why people's urine can look red after eating beetroot. Betanidin has been identified as the chemical compound responsible for 'beeturia'
The benefits of a cuppa: A strong cup of tea contains some 180mg to 240mg of polyphenol compounds, which are shown to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health
The blog also lifts the lid on why grapefruit interacts with some medicine. A family of chemical compounds called furanocoumarins, as well as bergamottin and dihydroxybergamottin interfere with the activity of an enzyme that plays an important part in breaking down some drugs in the body and when prevented from doing so it can lead to high levels of concentration of the drug in the bloodstream.
This is a problem, because prescriptions for drugs take into account the rate at which the body breaks down the drug in their dosage recommendations.
Eating a grapefruit while taking some medications can be enough to cause significant interaction with enzyme activity and the side effects can potentially include kidney damage, blood clots and breakdown of muscle fibres, the chemist warned.
Grapefruit meddling: The juice of the fruit is known to interact with medicines because of compounds which inhibit some forms of an enzyme responsible for breaking down drugs in the body
Feeling bitter: Chlorogenic acids make coffee taste bitter and account for up to eight per cent of unroasted coffee beans. Its content decreases when they are roasted
The blog also addresses why chocolate is toxic to dogs, the chemistry of tea and its antioxidants, why coffee is bitter and lemons taste sour.
Citric acid as well as a number of other compounds such as malic acid gives the lemon its sour taste. Malic acid is also found in apples and cherries, and responsible for aspects of their flavour.
Strangely, coriander, or cilantro, tastes soapy to some people and this is because the essential oil in the leaves is composed of 40 different organic compounds including aldehydes, which are largely responsible for the herb’s smell - and soapy taste for some.
It has been suggested that genetics play a part in why some people think the herb tastes soapy and why others do not. Scientists have highlighted a specific gene that codes for a receptor that is highly sensitive to the flavour of aldehydes.
One soapy herb: Strangely, coriander, or cilantro, tastes soapy to some people and is because the essential oil in the leaves is composed of 40 different organic compounds including aldehydes, which are largely responsible for the herb's smell and soapy taste for some
The spice rack psychedelic: Nutmeg has been used as a hallucinogen since the 16th century. Myristicin makes up around one per cent of raw nutmeg and leads to the effect because of the breakdown of the compound in the liver into MMDA, a drug of the amphetamine class and a known psychedelic
Could a popular arthritis supplement be the key to a longer life? Glucosamine could extend life 'by 8 years'
A popular food supplement made from crab shells may hold the key to long life.
Researchers are recommending that people start taking glucosamine, after tests on ageing mice showed it to extend lifespan by almost ten per cent, the equivalent to an extra eight years in human terms.
It is thought that the sugar-like supplement, which is has long been used to keep the joints healthy and ease the pain of arthritis, extends life by altering metabolism.
Longer life: Researchers are recommending that people start taking glucosamine, pictured, after tests on ageing mice showed it to extend lifespan by almost ten per cent
The Swiss researchers say they can’t be sure it will work in people – but there is no harm in trying it.
Michael Ristow, who has started taking glucosamine, said: ‘The chances are good.’
Dr Ristow, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is one of many scientists from around world the hunting for an anti-ageing pill or potion. The challenges include finding one that is safe – and that promises a healthy, as well as longer, old age. Dr Ristow gave the supplement to ageing mice, in addition to their usual diet, who lived ten per cent longer than a second group that ate normally, the journal Nature Communications reports.
The supplement, which can be bought in health food shops as a powder and in more expensive capsules, also appeared to ward off diabetes.
New use: Glucosamine is normally used to treat arthritis
It is thought it lengthened life by switching the body’s energy supply from sugary carbohydrates to fat and protein.
Low-carb diets are known to have benefits to health including lowering weight, blood pressure and harmful blood fats.
In two large-scale human studies, people who took glucosamine lived longer than others.
Dr Ristow says evidence on the benefits of glucosamine is mounting and recommends that people try the supplement for themselves.
He said: ‘This may be considered a valid option, and yes, I have started taking glucosamine myself.
‘There is no definite proof of the effectiveness of glucosamine in humans. But the chances are good and since unlike most other potentially lifespan-extending drugs there are no known relevant side-effects of glucosamine supplementation, I would tend to recommend this supplement.’
Dr Ristow suggests that people buy glucosamine powder and mix a tablespoon a day in water.
Those who prefer to buy capsules should take three to five grams a day.
However, diabetics should speak to their doctor first and people with shellfish allergies, and on the blood-thinning drug warfarin, should also be cautious.
Prof Tim Spector of King's College London, agreed that glucosamine is safe.
He added: ‘If an even modest effect on aging were proven it would be a major advance.
‘However, humans are not the same as worms or rodents and studies will need careful replication before we get over-excited.’