When did human dissection become legal?

Virtual reality provides anatomy in a new format

DUSSELDORF. According to the will of the federal government, Germany should become and remain the leading international location for applications of artificial intelligence - at least that is the claim anchored in the cornerstones of the AI ​​strategy adopted in the Federal Cabinet in July.

Using the example of oncological precision medicine, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Research Minister Anja Karliczek and her predecessor Johanna Wanka have repeatedly pointed out the immense potential that the use of AI - and thus the systematic evaluation of Big Data - holds for medical care.

At least two major obstacles are likely to stand in the way of the success of the AI ​​strategy, at least in the medium term.

On the one hand, the broadband expansion in Germany is not making any headway, but this is the sine qua non for the nationwide use of telemedical solutions that could also benefit from AI.

On the other hand, the legitimate - and also essential - question can be asked of how medical students in Germany should be introduced to the digitization of their generic work area and trained in the use of innovative technologies.

Digitization - just a virtual phenomenon?

Without a doubt, it can be assumed that the majority of current and future medical students at German universities would assign themselves to the digital natives. In most cases, digital competence is already available in the private sector.

But that's not enough for everyday healthcare in times of e-health. The crux of the matter: Even if the students wanted to devote themselves to digitization in general and AI in particular in their medical studies, this does not take place according to the curriculum - with a few exceptions. Why also?

Digital aspects play a major role in the National Competence-Based Catalog of Learning Objectives for Medicine (NKLM) adopted at the 76th Ordinary Medical Faculty Day 2015 in Kiel, and in the pompous master plan “Medical Studies 2020”, which aims to modernize the training of prospective doctors. Should the digitization of medicine - at least in Germany - remain just a virtual phenomenon?

Other countries are more progressive and more open to the digital blessings - including virtual reality (VR).

Lewis Chang, Manager Product Development HTC Healthcare at the Taiwanese electronics specialist HTC, reported at the world's largest medical trade fair Medica, which is currently taking place in Düsseldorf, in an interview with the “Ärzte Zeitung” that some universities around the world are already using the VR-Organon solution for their medical training .

HTC wants to conquer the medical market with the virtual glasses VIVE. For this purpose, the glasses have been linked to 3D organs with specially developed VR teaching software.

3D Organon is also the name of the company’s first anatomical atlas for virtual reality, which was developed for teaching purposes at universities but also for use in clinics.

The tool is operated using the VIVE VR glasses and two controllers that the user holds in their hands.

The human anatomy appears amazingly real in virtual space. Over 4000 anatomical structures and 550 animations, which convince with a detailed representation, can be called up in three-dimensional space.

Goodbye corpses?

As Chang emphasizes, the first university professors in the USA were already using the new solution to teach anatomy in the new format.

Up to 200 students could tune in online when the anatomy lesson is on the curriculum.

VR technology makes it possible to take the human body apart, layer by layer and organ by organ, and look at it from different angles by rotating it - including explanatory information.

For the future, this could mean that medical students could completely dispense with the dissection of human corpses during their studies - and thus find their first access to VR in a medical context. Maybe one day this scenario will also come true in Germany - maybe.