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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

About FDA

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Virtual Family

The Virtual Family (VF) consists of four highly detailed anatomically correct whole-body models of an adult male, an adult female, and two children. The project was carried out in cooperation between the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Foundation for Research on Information Technologies in Society (IT'IS Foundation, Zürich, Switzerland), Schmid & Partner Engineering AG (SPEAG, Zürich, Switzerland), the Hospital of the Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen, Germany, and Siemens Medical Solutions, Erlangen, Germany. The Mobile Manufacturers Forum and the GSM Association supported the development of the models. SPEAG and the IT'IS Foundation sponsored the development of the newly released models with enhancements that improved the spatial resolution and the effectiveness of the CAD (Computer Aided Design) quality and handling.

The four VF models are based on high-resolution MR images of healthy volunteers. All of their organs and tissues are represented by three-dimensional highly detailed CAD objects. The high-resolution MR images were segmented into up to 84 different tissues and organs. The models were reconstructed as three-dimensional CAD objects with high fidelity anatomical detail. The CAD objects allow meshing of the models at arbitrary resolutions without loss of small features due to multiple sampling. They can be exported in a generic voxel-based format using the Virtual Family Tool. All four models and the Virtual Family Tool are provided free of charge to the scientific community for research purposes only.

Currently the VF models are used for electromagnetic, thermal, and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamic) computer simulations. Examples of electromagnetic and thermal simulations are the assessment of the safety of active and passive medical implants in the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) environment and for safety and efficacy evaluations of ablation devices. The VF was used for electromagnetic and CFD simulations to assess the applicability of the magneto-hydrodynamic effect as a biomarker for cardiac output. Electromagnetics and thermal simulations were performed on the entire VF models, and additional models of children, to calculate the whole-body averaged and local SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) when the models were exposed to 1.5T and 3T whole-body MRI coils. These electromagnetic and thermal simulations also assessed the safety of multi-channel transmit radio frequency whole-body MRI coils.

The VF models can be used in any computer application able to handle geometry data in voxel-based format. This will change with the release of the VF 2.0 models as true CAD models in their native CAD format (VPM format). The VF models with unprecedented anatomical detail and accuracy are available to the scientific community through the IT'IS Foundation. The VF consists of four novel anatomically correct whole-body models:

  • ELLA: 26-year-old female
  • DUKE: 34-year-old male
  • BILLIE: 11-year-old female
  • THELONIOUS: 6-year-old male


26-year-old female form with transparent skin showing internal skeleton and organs.

 24-year-old male form with transparent skin showing internal skeleton and organs.

21-year-old female form with transparent skin showing internal skeleton and organs.

6-year-old male form with transparent skin showing internal skeleton and organs.

Launch Virtual Family disclaimer icon

Contact Information

Please address any questions or suggestions to Dr. Wolfgang Kainz at 301-661-7595 or wolfgang.kainz@fda.hhs.gov.


Disclaimer: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the IT’IS Foundation assume no responsibility whatsoever for use by other parties of the Virtual Family and make no guarantees, expressed or implied, about its quality, reliability, or any other characteristic. Further, use of the Virtual Family in no way implies endorsement by the FDA or confers any advantage in regulatory decisions. Version 2.0 of the Virtual Family is available on the basis of a license agreement for protection of privacy free of charge from the IT'IS Foundation. Any use of the Virtual Family shall bear the adequate reference. In addition, any derivative work shall bear notice that it is derived from the Virtual Family, and any modified versions shall bear the notice that they have been modified. The Version 2.0 of the Virtual Family and any derivative work or modified version thereof shall not be distributed to any third party whatsoever.