Health Science Collections

Exploring Human Anatomy

  • Plastinated Arm Vasculature

  • Human Torso at the Kidneys

  • Plastinated Slice of Human Foot

The research collection in the Health Sciences Department is comprised of rare and unique human anatomy specimens, as well as a small selection of pieces of medical importance. For more information about each subcollection, including plastination, histology, human DNA, classical anatomy, and historical medical, please see the tabs below.


  • Dr. Coughlin at the Institute for Plastination

  • The Institute for Plastination

  • Dr. Coughlin and Dr. von Hagens

Simply put, the plastination process halts the progression of decomposition after death. It does this by replacing the water and fat in body tissues with polymer plastics, thus removing the environment in which bacteria and other microorganisms responsible for decomposition thrive. This method produces bodies, organs, and tissue slices that remain very lifelike-still real, but infused with plastic so they are flexible, odorless, and very durable. All the anatomical details and much of the color of the tissue are preserved.

Dr. Gunther von Hagens, anatomist and lecturer at the University of Heidelberg, patented his plastination technique in 1977 as an alternative to the usual method of preserving specimens by imbedding them in solid blocks of plastic. He wanted to be able to touch the specimens and examine them more closely. The value of plastination to anatomy studies was immediately obvious. Dr. von Hagens spent the next 20 years refining the process, making improvements and modifications as he worked. He made the first whole-body plastinate in 1990.

This process is explained in detail in the steps shown in the diagram and images below.


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  • 2015 Teen Science Scholars Histology Project
    Posted: 07/15/2015

    By Ashley Hernandez & Momina Khazi

    Our 2015 Teen Science Scholars in the Health Sciences Department share their experiences in researching and cataloguing the extensive histology slide collection donated by local pathologist, Dr. Robert Shikes.

  • Welcome
    Posted: 02/28/2012


  • Nicole Garneau, PhD

    Curator and Chair
    Health Sciences Dept

  • umbraco.MacroEngines.DynamicXml
    Rich Busch

    Collections Manager

  • umbraco.MacroEngines.DynamicXml
    Colleen Carter

    Asst Collections Manager

  • Momina Khazi Garcia

    2015 Teen Science Scholar

  • Ashley Hernandez Gutierrez

    2015 Teen Science Scholar

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