- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

From this perspective, aortas look like caves and tunnels, blood cells are red-tinged clouds, and the circulatory system resembles an intricate highway map.

Artist Alexander Tsiaras takes data from CAT scans and MRIs and generates art that reveals the intricacies of the human body. His latest collection, “A Healthy Heart,” is on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus in Northwest.

The exhibit also has an accompanying book, “The InVision Guide to a Healthy Heart,” which has additional images of what goes on in the human body. It is the third book in this genre authored by Mr. Tsiaras to be featured at the museum.

“From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds” looks at the developing fetus inside the womb. “The Architecture of Man and Woman: The Marvel of the Human Body Revealed,” examines the human body as a whole. “The InVision Guide to a Healthy Heart” is the first of a series that will feature specific body systems.

“What Mr. Tsiaras has gotten out of medical data is pretty spectacular,” says museum collections manager Elizabeth Lockett. “He is really showing the human body in a different way. He is doing things with three-dimensional data that no one else is doing.”

Mr. Tsiaras and his team of artists and computer specialists use full-body scans, powerful microscopes and molecular modeling tools to observe what he calls “an anatomical travelogue.” Special software isolates body systems and offers a 3-D view of structures such as arteries. Slices of MRI and CAT scan data are complied to make a 3-D model of the image.

Some of the images on display here include a view of the entire circulatory system, a fetal circulatory system and a close-up of red blood cells within a capillary. There is a cross section of a heart, showing the valves that separate the chambers and maintain the direction of blood flow.

There are images of technology at work as well. One series shows how a balloon angioplasty works to clear the arteries. Here, the thin stent is shown in great detail as it is threaded through a plaque-filled artery.

The exhibit will appeal to a variety of visitors. Techies who are interested in the melding of art and science will like the sophisticated and novel approach in which the artwork is created. Scientists will appreciate the anatomical lessons that can be learned from the exhibit.

However, the display also will have an impact on anyone who has been told by his or her doctor to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Seeing giant arteries filled with thick plaque or seeing exactly how a pacemaker is inserted may be enough to remind you to get back on the treadmill or put out that cigarette.

“People have been pretty surprised at what [the inside of the body] looks like,” Ms. Lockett says. “Intellectually, they know, but these images really bring it home.”

When you go:

Location: “A Healthy Heart” is at the National Museum of Health and Medicine on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus, 6900 Georgia Ave. NW.

Hours: The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except Dec. 25.

Admission: free

Parking: Free parking is available in the museum’s driveway. Visitors to the museum must enter the hospital grounds at the gate at Georgia Avenue and Elder Street. They must show a driver’s license to obtain a pass to proceed to the museum.

Notes: Also on display at the museum are exhibits on Civil War medicine, battlefield medicine, forensic pathology and the evolution of the microscope.

More information: 202/782-2200 or www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum

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