The paper, The Virtual Family – development of surface-based anatomical models of two adults and two children for dosimetric simulations (Phys. Med. Biol. 55 N23), details the creation of computational models of a 34-year-old male, a 26-year-old female, an 11-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. The models, designed to enable optimized electromagnetic dosimetry, were provided free to the scientific community.

"Before the development of the Virtual Family, a majority of the few existing whole-body models were characterized by a fixed voxel size and limited anatomical detail," explained the paper's first author Andreas Christ, from IT'IS in Switzerland. "As a result, in many dosimetric studies, child models were based on uniform scaling of adult models, resulting in large uncertainties due to the differences in anatomical proportions. Moreover, the existing models did not adequately represent the anatomical variations of the general population."

The Virtual Family aimed to overcome these shortcomings by reconstructing all relevant organs and tissues as 3D CAD objects, which can be freely positioned in the computational domain and discretized at arbitrary resolutions. Christ and co-authors created the Virtual Family based on high-resolution MR images of the volunteers, using optimized MR scanning protocols. They selected volunteers with age-sex-specific height and body mass index averages corresponding to worldwide reference values.

Since the publication of this award-winning study, the Virtual Family – now called the Virtual Population – has grown substantially. It currently includes 15 whole-body human models that range in age from three to 84 years old, as well as pregnant and obese models (see Enhanced models expand simulation options). "The segmentation of the models is continually being improved, and the CAD meshes are now optimized for finite-element modelling, such that the models can be used with more general physics solvers," said Christ.

Rotblat medal

"Since the first publication of the Virtual Family models, my co-authors and I have been very pleased with the recognition our work has received within the global scientific community," Christ told medicalphysicsweb. "We are now even more grateful and honoured to receive the prestigious Rotblat medal as further recognition of our work."

"With such an honour comes greater responsibility to continue our research on improving and developing more extensive models and applications for computational representation of the human body."

• The winner of the 2014 Physics in Medicine & Biology citations prize is: The Virtual Family – development of surface-based anatomical models of two adults and two children for dosimetric simulations Phys. Med. Biol. 55 N23.

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