Health Science Collections

Health Sciences Collection Images

  • Plastinated slice of human torso at kidneys

  • Plastinated slice of human foot

  • Conservation photo of human eyes

  • Conservation photo of plastinated human brain

  • Plastinated slice of human hand

  • Plastinated slice of human foot.

The research collection in the Health Science Department is comprised of rare and unique specimens, as well as a small selection of pieces of medical importance. The department is actively seeking research collection acquisitions in the areas of anatomy, pathology, histology, and regional medical history.


  • 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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