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An Illustrated Subway Map of Human Anatomy

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What comes to mind when you think about your body?

Most people might imagine an intricate network of blood vessels or the complex neural circuits of the brain. Or we might picture diagrams from the iconic medical textbook, Gray’s Anatomy.

Today’s visualization puts a unique spin on all of these ideas – interpreting human anatomy in the style of London’s transit system. Created by Jonathan Simmonds M.D., a resident physician at Tufts Medical Center, it’s a simple yet beautifully intuitive demonstration of how efficiently our bodies work.

View a high resolution version of this graphic.
Subway Map of Human Anatomy

Make sure to view the full resolution version of this intricate visualization.

From Point A to Point Z

Right away, we can see that each system is broken down into a few major colored ‘lines’. Here are a few:

  • Vermillion system (Pink line)
    This covers one of the smallest surface areas, namely the boundary around the mouth from the cupid’s bow to the bottom lip.
  • Airway system (Black line)
    This represents the sections from the nose and mouth, down the windpipe and into the lungs. The system also works with bronchial arteries and veins – the striped blue and red lines respectively.
  • Nervous system (Yellow line)
    This starts from the temporal lobe of the brain, and reaches all the way to the body’s extremities, such as the fingertips and feet.
  • Portal system (Purple line)
    Approximately 75% of blood flowing from the liver passes through portal veins, which are one of two sets of veins connected to the liver.
  • Special system (Magenta line)
    This includes organs responsible for four of the five traditional senses – sight, hearing, smell, and taste – as well the reproductive organs.

While dashed lines represent deeper structures, sections with ‘transfers’ show where different organ systems intersect. The head is also helpfully categorized into three ‘zones’.

Of course, it’s not as straightforward as starting in one place and ending up on the opposite end – as with city transit systems, there are multiple routes that can be taken. If you’re still daunted by where to start with this map of human anatomy, there’s a helpful “You Are Here” at the heart.

To counter common biases in the medical field, Dr. Simmonds has noted that he will soon update the illustration to include racialized and female versions.

An Enduring Symbol

From a broader design perspective, this anatomical subway map draws inspiration from the famous London Underground design.

When engineering draftsman Harry Beck debuted this map back in the 1930s, it caused quite a stir. Many argued that it wasn’t geographically accurate, and that its scale was wildly skewed.

But that didn’t matter to most commuters. Beck’s map offered something that no one else did – it combined all the different lines into one pocket-sized diagram.

Beck’s map was revolutionary in its simplicity.

– Sam Mullins, London Transport Museum Director

As a result, the Tube’s linear, color-coded aesthetic is arguably the most recognizable transit map in the world today. Many major cities hopped on board with the timeless new look, such as Sydney and Paris.

This iconic subway map design has been used as a visual reference for everything from Ancient Roman roads to the Milky Way. That’s what makes it such a good application for the most complex network of all – the human body.

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Healthcare

Infographic: Which Rare Diseases Are The Most Common?

Rare diseases affect upwards of 350 million people worldwide. This infographic breaks down their types and prevalence, and estimated related drug sales.

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Infographic: Which Rare Diseases Are The Most Common?

Pharmaceuticals have come a long way since the apothecary days of prescribing cocaine drops for toothaches, or dispensing tapeworm diet pills.

Today, medical breakthroughs like antibiotics and vaccines save millions of lives, and contribute to the industry’s mammoth size. Yet even with rapid advancements, a select group of rare diseases still fly under the radar — and together, they affect over 350 million people worldwide.

What Are Rare Diseases?

Today’s infographic from Raconteur breaks down occurrence rates of notable rare diseases, and their collective impact on pharmaceutical drug sales. But first, let’s look at how they’re defined.

Diseases are considered rare, or “orphan” if they affect only a small proportion of the population. In general, it’s estimated that 1 in 17 people will be afflicted by a rare disease in their lifetime. At the same time, as many as 7,000 rare diseases exist, with more discovered every year.

A report by the global investment bank Torreya looks at the most common types of rare diseases that are a focus for therapeutic companies around the world:

  • Multiple sclerosis emerges above all others, at 90 patients per 100,000 people.
  • Narcolepsy—intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of sleepiness—affects 50 patients per 100,000.
  • Primary biliary cholangitis, the damage of bile ducts in the liver, affects 40 people in 100,000.
  • Rounding out the top five orphan diseases are Fabry disease (30 patients per 100,000), and cystic fibrosis (25 patients per 100,000).

One catch behind these stats? There’s actually no universal definition of what constitutes a rare disease. This means prevalence data like the above is often inconsistent, making it difficult to record the precise rate of natural occurrence.

The Cost of Rare Diseases

This gap in knowledge comes at a price—many rare diseases have constrained options for treatment. Orphan drugs are often commercially underdeveloped, as their limited end-market usage means they aren’t usually profitable enough for traditional research.

In the United States, government-backed incentives such as tax credits for R&D costs and clinical trials are speeding up the pathways from drug to market. Other places like the EU, Japan, and Australia are also following suit.

In total, it’s estimated that pharma companies focused on rare diseases are worth about half a trillion in enterprise value, roughly equal to 17.5% of the value of Big Pharma:

  • Non-oncology value: $315.7B
  • Oncology value: $193.1B
  • Total enterprise value: $508.8B

Source: Torreya Report. Market values are for the top 31 pure play rare disease therapeutic companies.

The average cost of an orphan drug per U.S. patient annually can climb to near $151,000 (a whopping 4.5 times that of a non-orphan drug, at $34,000). That’s why the pharma industry is urgently advancing rare disease therapeutics across different categories.

Dominant Orphan Drug Sales

According to other estimates, orphan drugs are set to capture over one-fifth of global prescription sales by 2024. Blood, central nervous system, and respiratory-related drugs are currently the top therapeutic categories and are expected to keep this status into the future.

The figures below break down global orphan drug sales by therapy category, and their present and estimated future market share. Note that oncology-related orphan drug sales are excluded from this table.

Therapy Category2018 SalesMarket Share2024E SalesMarket ShareChange in Market Share
Total Sales$67.9B$118.5B
Blood$21.3B31.4%$33.1B27.9%-3.4%
Central nervous system (CNS)$11.1B16.3%$20.3B17.1%0.8%
Respiratory$7.8B11.5%$13.6B11.5%0%
Immunomodulators$7B10.3%$12.5B10.5%0.2%
Cardiovascular$6.7B9.9%$8.5B7.2%-2.7%
Endocrine$3.8B5.6%$5.6B4.7%-0.9%
Musculoskeletal$3.5B5.2%$11B9.3%4.1%
Systemic anti-infectives$3.1B4.6%$4.2B3.5%-1%
Gastro-intestinal$2.9B4.3%$6B5.1%0.8%
Genito-urinary$0.6B0.9%$1.5B1.3%0.4%
Sensory organs$0.1B0.1%$1.5B1.3%1.1%
Dermatology$0B0%$0.7B0.6%0.6%

Source: EvaluatePharma. Industry sales are based on the top 500 pharma and biotech companies.

Much is still unknown about rare diseases in the health community. Frequent misdiagnosis, and up to an average of 8 years for an accurate diagnosis, continue to be a problem for patients.

There are two sides to the situation. On one, tech giants like Microsoft are providing digital health solutions to speed up diagnosis, through machine learning and blockchain-based patient registry.

On the other, many skeptics question whether the industry is interested in finding cures for rare diseases at all, especially when they account for a significant portion of industry revenues.

Is curing patients a sustainable business model?

Goldman Sachs

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Demographics

Visualizing Over A Century of Global Fertility

Global fertility has almost halved in the past century. Which countries are most resilient, and which have experienced the most dramatic changes over time?

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Visualizing Over A Century of World Fertility

In just 50 years, world fertility rates have been cut in half.

This sea change can be attributed to multiple factors, ranging from medical advances to greater gender equity. But generally speaking, as more women gain an education and enter the workforce, they’re delaying motherhood and often having fewer children in the process.

Today’s interactive data visualization was put together by Bo McCready, the Director of Analytics at KIPP Texas. Using numbers from Our World in Data, it depicts the changes in the world’s fertility rate—the average number of children per woman—spanning from the beginning of the 20th century to present day.

A Demographic Decline

The global fertility rate fell from 5.25 children per woman in 1900, to 2.44 children per woman in 2018. The steepest drop in this shift happened in a single decade, from 1970 to 1980.

In the interactive graphic, you’ll see graphs for 200 different countries and political entities showing their total fertility rate (FTR) over time. Here’s a quick summary of the countries with the highest and lowest FTRs, as of 2017:

Top 10 CountriesFertility rateBottom 10 CountriesFertility Rate
🇳🇪 Niger7.13🇹🇼 Taiwan1.22
🇸🇴 Somalia6.08🇲🇩 Moldova1.23
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo5.92🇵🇹 Portugal1.24
🇲🇱 Mali5.88🇸🇬 Singapore1.26
🇹🇩 Chad5.75🇵🇱 Poland1.29
🇦🇴 Angola5.55🇬🇷 Greece1.3
🇧🇮 Burundi5.53🇰🇷 South Korea1.33
🇺🇬 Uganda5.41🇭🇰 Hong Kong1.34
🇳🇬 Nigeria5.39🇨🇾 Cyprus1.34
🇬🇲 Gambia5.29🇲🇴 Macao1.36

At a glance, the countries with the highest fertility are all located in Africa, while several Asian countries end up in the lowest fertility list.

The notable decade of decline in average global fertility can be partially traced back to the actions of the demographic giants China and India. In the 1970s, China’s controversial “one child only” policy and India’s state-led sterilization campaigns caused sharp declines in births for both countries. Though they hold over a quarter of the world’s population today, the effects of these government decisions are still being felt.

Population Plateau, or Cliff?

The overall decline in fertility rates isn’t expected to end anytime soon, and it’s even expected to fall past 2.1 children per woman, which is known as the “replacement rate”. Any fertility below this rate signals fewer new babies than parents, leading to an eventual population decline.

Experts predict that world fertility will further drop from 2.5 to 1.9 children per woman by 2100. This means that global population growth will slow down or possibly even go negative.

Africa will continue to be the only region with significant growth—consistent with the generous fertility rates of Nigeria, the DRC, and Angola. In fact, the continent is expected to house 13 of the world’s largest megacities, as its population expands from 1.3 billion to 4.3 billion by 2100.

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