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NLM 175th Anniversary

Free information for the public from NLM’s Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Research

Senator Lister Hill

Senator Lister Hill
Photo courtesy of Bachrach

A Leader in Clinical Trials, Medical Data, & Electronic Health Information

This year marks the175th anniversary of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). To strengthen the Library’s mission to collect and disseminate the latest advances in medical knowledge, Congress in 1968 authorized establishment of the Library’s Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Research.

“We must develop a communications system so that the miraculous triumphs of modern science can be taken from the laboratory to all in need.”

—Senator Lister Hill, 1894-1984, longtime healthcare champion

As the Library’s research and development division, the Lister Hill Center seeks to improve worldwide access to biomedical information. It conducts and supports research and development in high-quality imagery, medical language processing, high-speed access to biomedical information, intelligent database systems, multimedia visualization, knowledge management, data mining, and machine-assisted indexing.

The following profiles highlight some of the free public resources available from the Lister Hill Center.

Up-to-date information on federal and private research studies (

Since its launch in February 2000, has provided the latest, most complete information about clinical trials in the United States and abroad. It is a free, online public service from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Clinical trials are scientific studies to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat disease. They may also compare new treatments to ones already available.

Daily, some 65,000 people visit the Web site, and there are more than 50 million page views per month. There is information on more than 106,000 trials funded by the NIH, other federal agencies, and private industry. Trials are conducted in all 50 states and in 174 countries.

Since September 2008, also has reported results for trials of federally approved drugs and medical devices. There is information about the types of participants, a statistical summary of the main results, and a listing of adverse events that occurred during the trial, as well as links to published articles about the trial.

On the Web site, you can search for a trial by the name of the disease, its location, type of treatment, or the sponsoring institution. You can see what studies are under way and whether a trial is seeking volunteers. You can also learn the purpose of the study, when it will take place, the eligibility criteria, and whom to contact for more information.

Dr. C. Everett Koop

Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General, is just one of many medical pioneers in the
Profiles in Science collection.
Photo courtesy of Profiles in Science

Profiles in Science

The Profiles in Science Web site ( celebrates outstanding figures in biomedical research and public health.

Begun in 1998, the Profiles in Science Web site is an archival collection celebrating the lives and achievements of prominent physicians, scientists, and public health pioneers. Visitors to the Profiles Web site can view the papers of C. Everett Koop, the former Surgeon General; Charles Drew, the “father of the blood bank”; Rosalind Franklin, the co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule; and many other notables. The collections contain numerous published and unpublished items, including books, journal volumes, pamphlets, diaries, letters, manuscripts, photographs, audiotapes, video clips, and other materials. It is maintained by the Lister Hill Center in collaboration with the Library’s History of Medicine Division.


Image from the Visible Human Project

The Visible Human male and female representations have been used by institutions in 61 countries for educational, diagnostic, virtual reality, and industrial purposes.
Photo: National Library of Medicine

The Visible Human Project

The Visible Human Project provides digitally photographed cross-sections of the Visible male and Visible female that can be converted into full-color, three-dimensional images.

The Visible Human Project was a remarkable effort that began in 1989 and resulted in creation of complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies. This included the acquisition of transverse CT, MR, and cryosection images of representative male and female cadavers. The male was sectioned at one-millimeter intervals, the female at one-third of a millimeter intervals. The Visible Human datasets are divided into six slightly overlapping subsets entitled Head, Thorax, Abdomen, Pelvis, Thighs, and Feet.

The images from the Visible Human have been put to many uses, from teaching anatomy to medical students to helping develop virtual colonoscopy. To see a sample of the images, visit

Almost 3,200 individuals and institutions in 61 countries have licensed the data for a wide range of educational, diagnostic, treatment planning, virtual reality, and industrial uses.

The NLM Personal Health Record (PHR)

The Lister Hill Center researches next-generation electronic health records to facilitate individualized patient care and better clinical treatment.

This project aims to help individuals who are caring for their elderly parent(s) and/or young children. The PHR allows users to enter and track key measurements and test results, prescriptions, problems, and immunizations. Digital and paper copies of its contents are available in various formats.

Currently the PHR provides access to MedlinePlus information resources about prescriptions. Soon, such information will be available through one click on the name of a recorded medication or problem. The PHR can remind the caregiver about important tasks, such as getting the loved one’s annual flu shots, or asking the doctor about his or her cholesterol-lowering drug.

Summer 2011 Issue: Volume 6 Number 2 Page 26-28