National Library of Medicine project to create largest-ever digital medical image library

San Diego 22 March 2000Storage and visualisation technologies, designed by the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC), will be integrated into a National Library of Medicine project to create one of the largest-ever medical image databases. The project will demonstrate how leading-edge information technologies in computation, visualisation, collaboration, and networking can expand the capabilities of medical science in developmental studies, clinical work, and teaching.


"We will be responsible for the housing and maintaining of a medical image database that will be one of the largest ever created", stated Reagan Moore, leader of SDSC's Data-Intensive Computing projects. "We will enable project participants to study data sets of sizes up to a terabyte, in multi-gigabyte images, using SDSC's IBM HPSS archival storage system, our Storage Resource Broker, and the MPIRE system to support 3-D rendering of the data."

The name of the project is "Human Embryology Digital Library and Collaboratory Support Tools". The data are derived from the Carnegie Human Embryology Collection, which is held at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington D.C. The data collection began in the early part of the 20th century, when the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington amassed and organised a collection of embryos contributed to it by physicians, who collected them upon mother's autopsy, miscarriage, or therapeutic termination of pregnancy.

The project focuses on providing a capability for medical professionals to communicate detailed information about the development of the human embryo in a visual form. It involves three medical schools as well as five participating technical organisations. Led by Dr. J. Mark Pullen of George Mason University, the technical team will develop a network of medical collaboration workstations to be interconnected over the Abilene and NTON networks at OC-3 and OC-12 rates.

The project network will demonstrate annotation and modelling applications for interpreting the image data. The Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland will take the lead in developing modelling applications, with Eolas Inc. of Chicago working on annotation tools. The tools and applications will also be made available via an Embryology Education project for the use of medical students, in which the University of Illinois at Chicago will take the lead. A third application, Clinical Management Planning, led by the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, will ultimately make the data available to geographically distributed groups of physicians who can simultaneously view it, manipulate images, and discuss the current diagnostic problems in the context of knowledge provided by the data.

Each medical school group will also focus on elucidating different aspects of the study of embryology. The Oregon group will be responsible for aspects of embryology dealing with the heart and lungs; the Illinois group will focus on the upper digestive tract; and the Hopkins group will be responsible for the aspects of embryology dealing with the caudal region or spinal development.

The technical participants in the NLM project are George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia; the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington D.C., holders of the Carnegie Collection; Eolas Inc. of Chicago, the supplier of software for visualisation, information mapping, knowledge management, and group collaboration; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, based in Livermore, California, which will direct networking efforts; and SDSC, which will house and maintain the image database.

The project will run through September 2002. "We believe that this project will be a beautiful demonstration of the very meaning of the words enabling technologies", commented Reagan Moore, who added that the technical challenges involve a hierarchy of image resolutions and problems of data flow which are well matched to the capabilities that SDSC can bring to bear.

Leslie Versweyveld

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