TECHNOLOGY TO WATCH A DIGITAL ADAM Researchers bring the science of anatomy into the information age by translating a cadaver into billions of bytes of computer memory.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Wanted: dead or . . . well, dead. In 1991, researchers Victor Spitzer and David Whitlock of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver launched a wide-ranging search for a perfectly ordinary cadaver: male, between 20 and 60 years old, under six feet tall, not too fat or thin, and without surgical scars or traumatic injuries. When colleagues from a Texas medical school phoned in August, they knew they had their man. A few hours later, Spitzer flew to Texas, chartered a Learjet, and brought back the remains of a 5-foot-11, 180-lb. 39-year-old who had willed his body to science. He'd died of an overdose of pills. The unfortunate Texan will soon achieve medical immortality. Spitzer and Whitlock are principal investigators on the Visible Human Project, a $770,000 program financed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), a unit of the National Institutes of Health. Its goal: to bring the study of anatomy into the information age by creating the world's first comprehensive digital record of the human body. Starting next spring, thousands of megabytes of data about the Texan's internal shapes and structures will be available on CD-ROMs and computer networks to medical schools and hospitals with computers powerful enough to handle them. Says NLM director Donald A.B. Lindberg: ''What's being created is a 3-D map of the anatomical universe. It will be like a new map of the world.'' In Denver, Spitzer and Whitlock began by performing head-to-toe magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans of the body. They will shortly cut the frozen cadaver into four pieces, embed them in gelatin, and put each under a slicing machine called a cryomacrotome. It will shave away precisely one millimeter at a time; as each layer is removed, an overhead camera will automatically photograph the remaining cross section. The images will be digitized and combined with the scanning data to produce highly detailed 3-D representations. Finally, the researchers will cremate the remains -- but the Texan will live on in the form of 20 billion bytes of data, stored on 35 CD-ROM disks. Lindberg says that the man's name will eventually be made public, possibly to become as famous in medicine as that of the late Henrietta Lacks, a Baltimore housewife whose cancer cells live on in labs under the name HeLa. The digital Adam will supplement the use of real cadavers in med schools. Future doctors will always need to learn about genuine flesh through traditional dissection. But exploring the body in digitized form on a computer screen offers something beyond that. Unlike a real cadaver, the digital kind can be expanded, shrunk, dissected, and reassembled over and over. Students will even be able to navigate the body's interior as if it were a building. And a digital cadaver lasts forever. For surgeons, the computerized body will allow preoperative planning of a kind not easily possible now. A surgeon preparing to remove a brain tumor, for instance, will compare an MRI image of her patient's head with that of the Texan's. On her computer screen she can peel away a portion of the skull and map out a path to the tumor that is likely to cause the least damage. Even designers of ergonomic furniture may benefit. Michael Ackerman, the manager of the Visible Human Project at NLM, has already had inquiries from companies eager to put the cadaver data into their CAD/CAM models of human bodies for greater accuracy. Digital Adam will soon be joined by a digital Eve: In September the body of a Maryland woman in her 50s who died of a heart attack arrived in Denver. In later phases of the project that have yet to be funded, the researchers hope to assemble a whole colony of computerized humans, from embryos to old people. The plan also calls for the integration of MRI images of biochemical activity into the cadavers' digital structures. A user could then ask his computer, ''Show what made that Texan happy,'' and see regions of Adam's brain glow onscreen as the release of neurotransmitters associated with pleasure bathes those areas in bliss.