The Foundational Model of Anatomy Ontology

  • Cornelius Rosse
  • José L. V. MejinoJr
Part of the Computational Biology book series (COBO, volume 6)


Anatomy is the structure of biological organisms. The term also denotes the scientific discipline devoted to the study of anatomical entities and the structural and developmental relations that obtain among these entities during the lifespan of an organism. Anatomical entities are the independent continuants of biomedical reality on which physiological and disease processes depend, and which, in response to etiological agents, can transform themselves into pathological entities. For these reasons, hard copy and in silico information resources in virtually all fields of biology and medicine, as a rule, make extensive reference to anatomical entities. Because of the lack of a generalizable, computable representation of anatomy, developers of computable terminologies and ontologies in clinical medicine and biomedical research represented anatomy from their own more or less divergent viewpoints. The resulting heterogeneity presents a formidable impediment to correlating human anatomy not only across computational resources but also with the anatomy of model organisms used in biomedical experimentation. The Foundational Model of Anatomy (FMA) ontology is being developed to fill the need for a generalizable anatomy ontology, which can be used and adapted by any computer-based application that requires anatomical information. Moreover it is evolving into a standard reference for divergent views of anatomy and a template for representing the anatomy of animals. A distinction is made between the FMA ontology as a theory of anatomy and the implementation of this theory as the FMA artifact. In either sense of the term, the FMA is a spatial-structural ontology of the entities and relations which together form the phenotypic structure of the human organism at all biologically salient levels of granularity. Making use of explicit ontological principles and sound methods, it is designed to be understandable by human beings and navigable by computers. The FMA’s ontological structure provides for machine-based inference, enabling powerful computational tools of the future to reason with biomedical data.


Anatomical Structure Direct Part Anatomical Relation Anatomical Surface Reference Ontology 


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Copyright information

© Albert Burger, Duncan Davidson, Richard Baldock 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cornelius Rosse
  • José L. V. MejinoJr

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