An interactive three-dimensional digital atlas and quantitative database of human development

Science. 2016 Nov 25;354(6315):aag0053. doi: 10.1126/science.aag0053.


Current knowledge about human development is based on the description of a limited number of embryonic specimens published in original articles and textbooks, often more than 100 years ago. It is exceedingly difficult to verify this knowledge, given the restricted availability of human embryos. We created a three-dimensional digital atlas and database spanning the first 2 months of human development, based on analysis of nearly 15,000 histological sections of the renowned Carnegie Collection of human embryonic specimens. We identified and labeled up to 150 organs and structures per specimen and made three-dimensional models to quantify growth, establish changes in the position of organs, and clarify current ambiguities. The atlas provides an educational and reference resource for studies on early human development, growth, and congenital malformations.

MeSH terms

  • Atlases as Topic*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / anatomy & histology*
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Visible Human Projects*