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Brave New Body Worlds

Exhibit puts human anatomy on display in a new way

If your auto mechanic_s only experience in their trade is having read a book on auto repair and looking at the outside of a vehicle, your confidence in their abilities may waver or even plummet. It_s the same with any craft, including EMS. But if you know how something is constructed and how it functions, it_s much easier to understand what is wrong and how to fix it. Medical schools have human cadaver labs designed for this purpose, but there aren_t a lot of people dying to donate their bodies to your local EMS academy (and there probably isn_t space in the station_s freezer for storage!).

Here_s a solution: A great way to see the complex inner workings of human anatomy is from a museum exhibit that combines the science of anatomy with aesthetics of art ƒ and it may be coming to a city near you. Gunther von Hagens_ Body Worlds is currently visiting the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pa. Companion exhibits Body Worlds 2 and Body Worlds 3 are also touring North America throughout the year (see sidebar for tour dates and locations).

Dr. von Hagens, a German pathologist and former lecturer in anatomy and pathology at Heidelberg University, is the father of ˙plastination,Ó the process of preserving human tissue by injecting special plastics. ˙I am still developing my invention further, even today, as it is not yet perfect,Ó says von Hagens, who has endured both praise and criticism for his groundbreaking works of art and science.„

The ˙Rearing Horse with RiderÓ is one of the fascinating

whole-body displays in the exhibit.

The first Body Worlds exhibit premiered in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1997. The controversy arose because several of the specimens are kept somewhat whole and posed performing various activities, such as skateboarding, playing chess and horseback riding (with a plastinated horse, of course, of course!).„

Blood vessel configurations, including this one of the„

arteries of the head and brain, are not plastinates.„

They are made using specially developed polymers„

that are injected and cured within the blood vessel„

system, which is then dissected from the specimen.

There are separate organs and tissues, dissected to reveal the details within. The exhibit also has ˙explodedÓ bodies, with parts arranged so that you can see what lies underneath the muscles, bones and peripheral organs. What_s amazing is that every part comes from people who donated their bodies to the Institute for Plastination. They aren_t recognizable because the skin and facial features have been either removed or altered, so there_s no worry that someone will reel in the horror of recognizing a friend or relative. Three people have signed up in Philadelphia so far, adding to the current donation list of 6,500 persons worldwide.

This human heart, opened longitudinally, is an example of the many plastinated organs on display.

In addition plastinated organs in their natural variations, the exhibit„

also includes diseased organs as comparison, such as this pair of„

smoker_s lungs.

Their Web site states that the primary goal of Body Worlds is health education. One look at the lungs of a person who smoked during their lifetime is breathtaking (pardon the pun), and may serve as a wakeup call for those who need inspiration to quit. The details that can be seen in the tissues and organs isolated for display are amazing. There_s even a pregnant female with the fetus in the womb. Dr. von Hagens is purportedly developing an anatomy course based on plastinated specimens, rather than corpse dissection, for a medical school in the United States.

One visit to this exhibit is worth more than a semester of any anatomy class, and you_ll appreciate the insight that comes with the experience.



΄von Hagens G, Whalley L: Body Worlds Catalog on the Exhibition. Heidelberg, Germany: Arts & Sciences, mbH. 2005.

΄E-mail from Lauren Rose, Communications Director for Body Worlds at the Franklin Institute.

Learning more about Body Worlds

Exhibit Main Web site


Body Worlds

Franklin Institute [www.fi.edu]

Philadelphia, Pa.

Oct. 7, 2005ÏApril 23, 2006

Science Museum of Minnesota [http://www.smm.org]

St. Paul, Minn.

May 5ÏSept. 4, 2006

Body Worlds 2

Denver Museum of Nature & Science [www.dmns.org]

Denver, Colo.

March 10ÏJuly 23, 2006

Body Worlds 3

Houston Museum of Natural Science [http://hmns.org]

Houston, Texas

Feb. 25ÏSept. 4, 2006

For more in-depth discussion of plastination, check out "Plastination: An innovative approach to preserving anatomical specimens & teaching anatomy to EMS personnel," December 2001„JEMS.


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