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Tech students to study virtual cadavers
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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Leader photos by CALEB DANIEL

Biology major Arianna Miskowski uses the Anatomage Table at the new Justin and Jeanette Hinckley Virtual Anatomy Lab at Louisiana Tech to examine a digitized version of a real human cadaver. A leukemia patient, the man’s swollen lymph nodes are clearly visible.

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Miskowski, left, and associate professor Jamie Newman manipulate Louisiana Tech’s new Anatomage Table.

The contents of Carson-Taylor Hall on Louisiana Tech University campus now include four dead bodies, but don’t be alarmed — they’re digitized cadavers that students can study in depth at the new ​Justin and Jeanette Hinckley Virtual Anatomy Lab.

The lab features an Anatomage Table, a 3D anatomy visualization and virtual dissection tool that lets instructors and students explore complete body scans of real people who donated their bodies to science.

This roughly $85,000 piece of advanced technology allows users to isolate and zoom in on any layer of the body, from organ systems and nerve pathways to musculature and bone structure, and view it from any angle, as well as perform virtual dissections with the scalpel tool.

In addition to the four full cadavers, plus a fifth to be uploaded soon, students will also have access to more than 1,600 MRI and CT scans of human and animal development and injury.

While manipulated on the table, the images are also displayed on a large screen on the wall for viewers to see from across the room.

“They can go in and see what it really looks like in a real human and see the relationship between organ systems,” School of Biological Sciences Director Bill Campbell said.

“You can watch blood flow. You can open up the heart and watch it beat. You can watch the valves open and close. You can create different situations — speed up the heart or slow it down. It’s just really incredible.”

The lab was made possible by gifts from several donors, including past Alumnus and Alumna of the Year Justin and Jeanette Hinckley.

It started with an idea by Jamie Newman, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Applied and Natural Sciences. She said she was inspired by conversations at Tech’s VISTA (Visual Integration of Science Through Art) Center.

“Medical illustrators told us that the future of teaching medicine was really in the technology that you have,” Newman said.

“So we looked into all the technology that exists for teaching anatomy in a more interactive way, and we decided on the Anatomage Table because of what it offers for students, the interaction capabilities, the affordability and mobility of it.”

Architecture professor Kevin Singh’s spring 2020 architecture class designed a remodel for the room in Carson-Taylor Hall that would become the anatomy lab. It was a virtual class due to COVID-19, so the students used pictures and measurements of the room to create their design.

A variety of health science disciplines will conduct classes in the new lab, and when it’s not being used for a specific class, students will be able to book time to use the Anatomage Table as a sort of study hall.

Biology major Arianna Miskowski will be a senior in the fall and is already getting used to navigating the table. During a media exhibition last week, Miskowski pulled up the virtual cadaver of a man in his 30s who died of pneumonia caused by leukemia.

“I just applied to a physical assistant program, and this is for sure going to be able to prepare me so much,” she said. “This is such a brand new, innovative way to get to see in depth every system and every nook and crevice of the whole body.

“It’s way different than dissecting a small animal.”

The room will also have iPads that students can use to access the companion software for the table, allowing them to view many of the same features on those devices.

“We believe in what (the Biology Department is) doing and understand the importance of producing students who will become the future problem-solvers and caregivers in our society,” Justin Hinckley said. “In order to do that, they need top-notch resources to support and complement the qualified faculty on Tech’s campus. We are proud to do a small part in making Tech a better institution for our students and faculty.”