The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) has joined the collaboration building the 3D Definitive Human. The ground-breaking model, which is being created by a team of international experts in 3D medical visualisation at The Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio (DDS), is also supported by the Scottish Funding Council and NHS Education, Scotland. It builds on the 3D Head and Neck anatomy which was unveiled by Scotland’s then First Minister, Alex Salmond, in April 2013, and underlines Scotland’s position in the forefront of both medical visualisation and simulation, and medical education and training.

The first images of the 3D Definitive Human were unveiled in the state of the art Lab 1 at the Digital Design Studio after an official signing of the partnership agreement, which will result in the final model being potentially available to over 22,500 fellows and members of the RCSEd across the globe as well as to medical, dental and anatomy students.

This ultrarealistic 3D model, The Definitive Human will lead to a step change in medical and surgical teaching, education and training since uniquely it will be interactive in real time, and thus enable virtual dissection and re-assembly thereby supporting study, pre-operative planning and surgical simulation. Work on the skeleton is complete and within the next two years the musculo-skeletal mechanics, viscera and anatomical systems will be completed. The model is being created from various anatomical references including precise medical scans of donor cadavers in the Laboratory of Human Anatomy, School of Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow and with specialist input from experts including the Fulbright Chair –the Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at University of Illinois, Chicago.

“We are delighted that the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is to partner our Digital Design Studio in this ground-breaking project,” says Professor Tom Inns, Director of The Glasgow School of Art. “The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh strives to be at the forefront of surgical education and through this collaboration they will both contribute to and benefit from an innovation that will lead to a step change in anatomical education.”

The GSA’s Digital Design Studio works acorss a wide range of visualisations and simulation project including the Scottish Ten and the award winning 3D immersive battle experience at the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre.

“Our work on the Definitive Human begins with MRI and CT scans and Photogrammetry of cadavers,” explains Dr Paul Chapman, Acting Director of the Digital Design Studio. “Then our expert 3D modellers, computer artists and 3D computer programmers create the real time interactive three dimensional model using the kind of techniques that are also used to create computer gaming environments.”

“Effective surgical treatment starts with a sound understanding of anatomy,” says Mr Ian Ritchie, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. “We believe that the DDS 3D Definitive Human Project is a ground breaking approach to understanding anatomy which will be fundamentally important to our UK and International Fellowship and Membership. We are pleased to be able to support this important project.”

“The 3D Definitive Human takes the learning out of the operating theatre,” adds Craig McIllhenny, Surgical Director of the Faculty of Surgical trainers at RCSEd. “For a trainee to be able to see the anatomy of an intervention ‘virtually’ would make initial patient interventions much safer.”

Importantly, The 3D Definitive Human collaboration also includes the continuing participation of key partners of NHS Education Scotland, a key partner in the 3D Head and Neck anatomy, and of the Scottish Funding Council.

“NES welcomes the ongoing development of the definitive human which will have applicability across a wide range of healthcare disciplines,” says David Felix, Postgraduate Dental Dean, NHS Education Scotland. “This is an exciting initiative which builds upon the head and neck resource that was only made possible by the support of NES.”

It was also confirmed today that in the coming weeks the 3D Head and Neck Anatomy, which is already being used in dental teaching, will be available for students in Scotland as a pc download to facilitate personal study.

The 3D Definitive Human is expected to be ready to be tested on beta test sites (including the teams at Torbay and Plymouth hospitals) in late 2017 and introduced into full surgical and anatomical training the following year.


Digital Design Studio

Glasgow School of Art

Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

NHS Education Scotland

Scottish Funding Council

University of Glasgow