Digitised Diseases

By mike henderson on 24 Jul 2012


Since the beginning of 2012 the Osteology Department at MOLA has been involved in the Digitised Diseases project in collaboration with the University of Bradford the Royal College of Surgeons and funded by JISC. The ultimate aim of the project is to produce a web resource featuring high resolution 3D images of human bones with evidence of disease. Intended as a teaching tool, the website will allow detailed inspection of pathological lesions. Users will be able to move each image around in order to view it from every angle. They will also be able to zoom in to a high degree of magnification.

A right scapula with possible metastatic carcinoma which arose in the prostate

We hope that the value of the resource for medical students and professionals will be the ability to observe the various effects of different diseases on the bone and so understand how the pathological process affects the skeletal system.

It will expand on modern clinical experience by demonstrating changes that occur over long periods of time. In the pre-antibiotic age, chronic diseases were frequently incurable and could progress to their full degree. Advances in medicine have reduced modern doctors’ exposure to such cases. The website will provide a searchable database categorized by disease class, offering a diagnostic aid to help with cases of bone disease.

The creation of the resource requires a number of stages. For MOLA this started with the delivery of a FARO Quantum laser arm and a camera by the team from Bradford. Following training on the arm, and instruction on the method of photography and database entry, we were ready to go.

Specimens were selected with reference to those already scanned at Bradford in order to minimise repetition. By using the collections of three institutions it is hoped that the majority of skeletal diseases are covered. To date we have scanned nearly one hundred bones, including examples of infectious, metabolic, neoplastic and developmental disease.

FARO Quantum laser arm in action

Once a bone is chosen it is given a unique index number and entered into the database. Photographs are taken from every angle, concentrating on getting a focused shot of each part of the specimen. The bone is then placed on a solid heavy table and laser scanned. Usually this entails taking two ‘views’. Put simply, the bone is placed one way up to scan it, and then turned over to scan the other side. Each time the laser is moved over the bone is called a pass and it often takes a large number of passes to capture all surfaces and features of a pathological specimen. Each pass is recorded on the computer as a different colour.

Once the views have been completed and aligned, they are overlain and joined together on the computer. All scanned points are then aligned to produce a file containing a 3D image blank, which is sent off to Bradford with the photographs. There the photographs are mapped onto the blanks by games industry professionals to produce the finished models.

So please, let us know what you think, and how you might use this resource.

Right humerus of an adult suffering from achondroplasia (dwarfism) with each colour representing a separate pass

Fur further information see:


One thought on “Digitised Diseases

  1. Rihana Gray says:

    I would surely love to use this resource. The complete procedure to make the 3D images of bones is a stressful work. I appreciate your work.

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