Mason Leads Visible Embryo Telemedicine Project

Posted: July 10, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Emily Yaghmour

Mark Pullen of the Department of Computer Science is leading a project to develop a human embryology digital image library that biological scientists and medical professionals can use to study human development. Located at facilities across the country, researchers involved in the project will collaborate over the Next Generation Internet (also known as Internet2), which consists of high-performance networks specially designed to carry the large volumes of data involved in research.

According to Pullen, the project will show how high-performance networks can enable medical professionals to collaborate online over great distances. By facilitating such collaborations, these networks can help expand medical knowledge and provide patients with better health care.

The collection of embryos from which the images for the library will be taken is provided by the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, which houses the collection in the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology’s National Museum of Health and Medicine. The serially sectioned embryos are more than 50 years old, having been provided by physicians between the 1890s and the 1930s from pregnancies in which the mothers had died or miscarried or in which the embryos were terminated for therapeutic reasons. The library can be searched in various ways–according to organ system, structure and tissue type, specimen, etc.

Other institutions and laboratories involved in the project are the Oregon Health Science University in Portland; the University of Illinois at Chicago; Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore; Eolas Technologies, Inc., of Chicago; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of Livermore, Calif.; and the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California at San Diego.

Pullen plans to conclude the project in September 2002. At that time, he expects the researchers will have fully annotated one embryo in great detail and will have scanned another 20 to 50 specimens. Researchers whose work is sponsored by the National Library of Medicine will have access to the library and its associated applications through the Next Generation Internet. A less detailed version of the library will be available on the commercial Internet.

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