A blog about scientific and medical visualization and all that’s involved.

Archive for the ‘anatomy’ Category

Modeling Lung Anatomy

Posted by Janet on August 8, 2009

*3ds Max lung model © Denoyer-Geppert, images used with permission.

Following “Visualizing Lung Anatomy,” I can now begin to model the lung. First, I took screen shots of the lung in VolView in three orthographic views–top, left, and front. Then I set up three orthographic planes and added each image as materials to the planes. I prefer this method over using a background image because this allows you to see the images in perspective views as you rotate objects. You also don’t have to worry about shifting your objects and locking zoom, which in my version of 3ds Max gets a little quirky.


Next, I put more planes in the scene, took a screen shot of every twentieth slice from the data set, and applied the screen shots to the planes as materials. Now that I have slices of the lung from front to back, I outlined each slice in the front viewport. Notice that the outlines are all located on the same plane. This will be fixed later. (If you are wondering why the “right” lung is on the left side, it’s because the “person” is facing us so their right is our left.)


Once the outlines are complete, I calculated the distance I must offset each line in order for it to fit the profiles correctly. After the outlines are moved to their correct positions, you can clearly see the shape of a lung in the perspective view. The lines must be linked together in order for a surface to be created. I selected one outline and used the “Attach Multiple” option under the modify panel. For now, I keep the front and back halves separate so I can easily hide the back side when necessary. Then, using the “Connect” and “Refine” features under the modify panel, I connected vertices between the outlines.


Here is what the model looks like with connections between the outlines:


Using the “Surface” modifier, I created a surface using this mesh. At this point it’s not perfect. I must go back and adjust the mesh until the entire surface can be covered:


A model of the lung without holes in the model:


The lung is looking nearly perfect, but overall still appears rough. Adding “Relax” and “TurboSmooth” modifiers will help refine the mesh:


This is one way to make a model of the human lung. I chose this method because I wanted to capture the accuracy in shape and had tools to visualize CT scan data. I also chose not to model the lobes separately because they are not the primary concern for this project and can be added later using materials.

Posted in anatomy, digital 2D/3D, my projects, techniques | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Visualizing Lung Anatomy

Posted by Janet on July 27, 2009

One of the projects I’m currently working on at home involves building a 3D model of the right lung. To make sure the model will be as accurate as possible in terms of shape, I would need to know the lung anatomy before I begin building the model.

The first thing I did was going to a library to look at drawings and photographs of lungs. I did a few quick sketches and wrote down some notes on how I will approach this in a 3D program:

Now comes the fun part…

Next, I went to CVS and bought some Crayola modeling clay and began to build a small lung model while looking at online images of the lung. I tried to find as many variations in as many angles as possible, but most resources only showed the standard views. The e-anatomy website very helpful for this initial step, since it provides cross sectional images, labels of structures, and several different ways of presenting the structures. (The website is free, but registration is required to gain full access to the labels and features. High res images and full screen mode are available with a fee, but for our purpose this isn’t necessary.)

The purpose of making a clay model is to get a concrete physical sense of the three-dimensional shape. I find this step very important because it forces you to piece together two-dimensional visuals into a three-dimensional object. It is through this process that I begin to realize the complexity of the shape of a lung.

Below: Clay lung, heart, and a piece of unused clay.


To begin the digital visualization process, I looked further to find visualization tools that would allow me to use actual human data, look at the structures from various angles, and isolate unnecessary structures. Osirix, an open source DICOM viewer, is perfect for the job. It even has data sets available for download. The only problem is…Osirix is Macs only, and I only have access to PCs.

After poking around for a while, I found a similar product called VolView that works on a PC. VolView comes with a $1000 yearly or a $2500 unlimited licencing fee, but it has a 30 day free trial for download. I was able to import a data set from the Osirix website into VolView. My impression of VolView after two days is that it is very easy to navigate, comes with instructions (Help –> Help Topics), gives good results, and has powerful features. One thing I haven’t figured out is whether there is a cut feather that allows the user to trim away unnecessary parts. There seems to be a segmentation tool under the “Analysis” tab, but the instructions for this feature is limited and it is a feature that does not allow “undo.” That is scary. The first time I tried it, it messed up a model I had been playing with for two hours, but it warns you first so you feel like it’s your own fault for not listening. Luckily I was able to reproduce the same result ten minutes later. Here is a screen shot of my lung visualization:

…and a detailed shot of the lung. You can see the bronchi entering the right lung, but notice there are still some artifacts on the side.

*See “Modeling Lung Anatomy” for the next step in this process.

Posted in anatomy, digital 2D/3D, my projects, photography/imaging, techniques | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Anatomical Model–How It’s Made

Posted by Janet on March 24, 2009

Here is the segment from “How It’s Made” that I mentioned last week. This video focuses on the process of making the models, not so much on the design process which I also talked about. The process in the video is very similar to what I’ve seen.

Posted in anatomy, sculpture, videos | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Virtual Pelvic Floor

Posted by Janet on February 5, 2009

Posted in anatomy, digital 2D/3D, videos | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Build Your Own Anatomy

Posted by Janet on January 31, 2009

Next week I begin an internship at an anatomical model company, so out of pure interest I started looking up various anatomical model companies all over the US.  What I found was an anatomical model system called “Anatomy in Clay.” Rather than a full anatomy model, the “Anatomy in Clay” system offers skeleton mannequins with clay, clay tools, instruction, and learning DVDs so students can learn anatomy by building it. See for yourself at the videos below or check out

I personally wish I had something like this when I learned anatomy (I did attempt to build muscles and nerves using string and cotton balls on a 10 inch skeleton). Here is what some teachers and high school students think of the Anatomy in Clay system:

One more video showing people building muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and “guts.”

Posted in anatomy, sculpture, stores/products, videos | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

National Geographic Best Science Images 2008

Posted by Janet on October 7, 2008

Check out the winning entries of National Geographics’ Photos: Best Science Images of 2008 here:

Thanks Sarah for the heads up!

Posted in anatomy, biology, digital 2D/3D, photography/imaging | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Student Works–Megan Thomas

Posted by Janet on August 13, 2008

Here is a piece by Megan Thomas illustrating glomerular filtration in the nephron of the kidney.

This illustration was made using 3D Studio Max and Photoshop. For more information, contact Megan at

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Student Works: Kristin Luther

Posted by Janet on June 24, 2008

Kristin Luther, currently a student in the Biomedical Visualization program at UIC, explains the carpal tunnel syndrome through her illustration below. This illustration was made during her second semester in the program.

Here is what Kristin says about her work:

“We have been learning all about commonly used techniques within the field of medical illustration. The technique I used for this piece is line art made in Adobe Illustrator. I started with a scanned sketch, which I traced over (using the pen tool) and then added flat and gradient fills. The message is to explain some of the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, and the audience is the general public.”

More of Kristin’s works can be seen on her website at and Kristin can be reached at

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The Physician’s Art

Posted by Janet on April 18, 2008


In 1999, the Duke University Museum of Art (DUMA) presented an exhibit on the art of medicine. Along with that exhibit came a catalog titled “The Physician’s Art,” composed with high quality prints and descriptions of works that were part of the exhibit. The catalog focuses on Western medicine, covering works from as early as the 1500s to the 1900s. The range of works include anatomical illustrations, scientific illustrations of medicinal plants, surgical tools, and anatomical mannequins (as shown on the cover). This is definitely worth a look if you are interested in historical medical illustration.

“The Physician’s Art” by Julie V. Hansen and Suzanne Porter, from the collections of Duke University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest University, is available used on or check your local library. Also check out the book reviews from PubMed and the NYU Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database.

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Posted by Janet on April 3, 2008

The latest issue (Issue 28 ) of “Cabinet,” a quarterly magazine of art and culture, is focused around the theme of “bones.” The main section contains thirteen diverse articles, starting with Robert Harbison’s “The Museum of the Dead.” The short article “Bone Play” about the historical practice of anatomy might interest many of you. Not available online includes a page of skeleton drawings of cartoon characters, an article called “Unnatural Selection: An Interview with the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory,” a bookmark with a picture of a tower made of chicken bones by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, and a postcard with a photo of a bone-setting mannequin.

In this issue, you will find some interesting photographs and historical images related to scientific and medical illustrations. The articles embrace art, history, culture, and philosophy more so than science, but are nevertheless interesting reads. The table of contents can be accessed here. To learn more about the magazine, visit their home page at

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