UNM database first of its kind in the nation

It’s the first of its kind: a database of the dead.

New Mexico researchers say it could lead to major developments in medicine and even vehicle manufacturing.

The Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) at the University of New Mexico uses CT scans to investigate deaths, and in the past seven years, they’ve scanned more than 15,000 bodies.

“So that is victims of violent crimes, it’s people who died in car accidents, it’s also anybody whose deaths were unattended by a physician,” says Associate Professor of Anthropology Heather Edgar. 

Now, local researchers are putting all that info to use, creating a database for researchers. 

“Compare frequency of causes of death, and also look at what else is going on in the body that wasn’t related to death,” Edgar says. 

The database will include the high-resolution scans and details about the person’s life, including drug use and medical history.  

“We know how old they are, what age, sex, things like this — and it will actually be a pretty phenomenal resource,” says Edgar.

Edgar says it’s the first database of its kind in the nation, and the information could lead to change.

“Maybe if we are finding the same pattern over and over and over of how people are dying, there might be a way to modify motor vehicles that we haven’t come up with yet,” Edgar says. 

Edgar says a beta version should be up and running by April and the full version by the end of the year. 

“We can’t even predict all the kinds of research that are going to come out of this,” Edgar says.

Even though the database offers details about a person’s life, their identity will be protected.

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