York University

At the York MRI Facility at York University in Toronto, the Parametric Human Project partnered with Prof. Jennifer Steeves and Joy Williams, MRI Technologist, to perform a number of scans of Andrew Hessel. This rounds out the data collection from Mr. Hessel, a biotech entrepreneur who now lives near San Francisco, which includes a high resolution body surface scan from Quantum Capture and his full DNA sequence as participant No. 10 in the Personal Genome Project: Canada.

The entire process occurred over the course of a morning session. To collect an internal image of the whole body, several sectional scans are taken. Each scan covers 30 to 40 cm of the subject, with generous overlap between sections, for a registration algorithm to combine these image blocks into a complete whole body MRI. Some preparation is needed to stabilize the subject, to minimize motion while in the scanner. From the control room, instructions and updates are given to the subject.

The first scan, a rough overview, is done quickly. And we have our first glimpse inside the body. The result is instantly impressive despite having a general knowledge of human anatomy. For example, in the sagittal view, the spine comprises a surprisingly large fraction of the body.

The MRI system has a vast array of parameters and settings. Many settings can be used to reveal different properties of various tissues in the body. For example, Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is a group of techniques used to clearly image blood vessels, especially in the brain and around the heart.

By combining computational techniques with MRI techniques for estimating the diffusion, or restriction, of water molecules in the tissues and fluids, directions of fibrous tissue can be calculated. This is now common in brain imaging to better understand how different parts of the brain relate to each other. In the scanning software, seed voxels can be selected and the system will trace extracted directions to show fiber traces.

We now have a significant task ahead to determine how, and what tools need to be created, to combine the volumetric MRI data with the geometric surface scan dataset, as well as projecting the muscle fiber bundle dataset into the volumetric data. Another major task is the segmentation of the voxel data into specific bones, organs, and blood vessels. Once these tasks are underway, we can begin the key work in the Parametric Human Project of correlating the data and the extracted features with the relevant sections of the DNA sequence and, later, between Andrew and other subjects.

Seeing Andrew from the inside and the outside simultaneously is quite novel, which begs the question, can we bring the data to life to match the living data source?