Representation of anatomy in online atlases and databases: A survey and collection of patterns for interface design

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: A large number of online atlases and databases have been developed to mange the rapidly growing amount of data describing embryogenesis. As these community resources continue to evolve, it is important to understand how representations of anatomy can facilitate the sharing and integration of data. In addition, attention to the design of the interfaces is critical to make online resources useful and usable. Results: I first present a survey of online atlases and gene expression resources for model organisms, with a focus on methods of semantic and spatial representation of anatomy. A total of 14 anatomical atlases and 21 gene expression resources are included. This survey demonstrates how choices in semantic representation, in the form of ontologies, can enhance interface search functions and provide links between relevant information. This survey also reviews methods for spatially representing anatomy in online resources. I then provide a collection of patterns for interface design based on the atlases and databases surveyed. These patterns include methods for displaying graphics, integrating semantic and spatial representations, organizing information, and querying databases to find genes expressed in anatomical structures. Conclusions: This collection of patterns for interface design will assist biologists and software developers in planning the interfaces of new atlases and databases or enhancing existing ones. They also show the benefits of standardizing semantic and spatial representations of anatomy by demonstrating how interfaces can use standardization to provide enhanced functionality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalBMC Developmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 21 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Clarkson.


  • Anatomy
  • Atlas
  • Database
  • Interface
  • Ontology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology


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