Due to a corpse shortage, medicine professors are developing applications to teach their students to dissect corpses virtually. This would promote an immersion into the basics of the human body, before students have to face the real deal.

Immersion within the human body

Even if it is a bit gloomy, nothing beats the dissection of corpses to teach medicine students about human anatomy. However, as there is a corpse shortage, this method is not always available or costs a lot of money. To resolve this, scientists around the world are looking into the development of virtual corpses.

In 2014, researchers of the Immersive Digital Experience Nexus at Michigan University recreated a human corpse in 3D down to the smallest detail. The virtual corpse floats like a hologram. It is possible to make precise virtual cuts, to turn the corpse around, and like in a video game a joystick can be used to remove skin and muscle and reveal the skeleton beneath. In order to conduct the virtual dissection, the students have to wear 3D glasses and the room where they observe the model is equipped with motion capture cameras which adapt to the movements of each user. It’s amazing. It’s like the film Fantastic Voyage—we really get immersed in the human body,” says the neuroscientist Alexandre DaSilva in Popular Mechanics.

In May 2018, at Montpellier’s Faculty of Medicine, surgeons teamed up with Artec 3D and the medical evaluation company IMA Solutions to develop a similar system but with the bonus of having 3D scanners to “scan” real corpses. This proposed application of 3D dissection should also be functional in real time, and will require using glasses and joysticks, according to The Verge. It is highly precise, more so than its counterpart at Michigan University, as it relies on real corpses. There are two modes to the system: “practise” which gives free use to students, and “exam” for the professors to use.

Learning the “bases” of virtual dissection

The virtual corpses created by the Montpellier surgeons are made up of eight “layers” which include skin, arteries, muscle and much more all in minute detail. For Guillaume Captier, who is heading the research team, virtual corpses would mean that students would be given the chance to “learn the bases of dissection”. “Once they’ve gained more experience, they can progress to the real thing.

The Montpellier Faculty of Medicine application still needs to be polished, but in practise mode users will be able to “select a specific part of the human anatomy, receive information on the best ways to dissect it, and be able to practise it.” In the exam mode, students will need to answer questions and prove their “dissection capacity” before they are allowed to work with real corpses.