The process of plastination.

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Fixation

The first step of Plastination is fixation. Formaldehyde or other preservation solutions are pumped through the arteries to kill all bacteria and to prevent the decomposition of the tissues. This process takes about 3-4 hours.

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Anatomical dissection

After that dissection starts. Skin, fatty and connective tissues are removed in order to prepare the individual anatomical structures and elements. According to the complexity of specimens, dissection can take between 500 to 1,000 hours of labor.

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Removal of body fa and water

When the necessary dissection is completed, the actual process of Plastination begins. In the first step, the water and soluble fats are dissolved from the body in a bath of acetone. Under freezing conditions, the acetone draws out all the water and replaces it inside the cells.

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Forced impregnation

The third step is the central phase of the Plastination process, forced impregnation. Here specimen is placed in a bath of liquid polymer, such as silicone rubber, polyester or epoxy resin. By creating a vacuum, the acetone boils at a low temperature. As the acetone vaporizes and leaves the cells, it draws the liquid polymer in so that the polymer can penetrate every last cell. This process lasts 2-5 weeks.

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Positioning

After vacuum impregnation, the body is still flexible and can be positioned as desired. Every single anatomical structure is properly aligned and fixed with the help of wires, needles, clamps, and foam blocks. Positioning requires a lot of anatomical knowledge and a defined sense of aesthetics. This step can take weeks or even months.

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Curing (Hardening)

In the final step, the specimen is hardened. Depending on the polymer used, this is done with gas, light, or heat. Curing protects the plastinate against decomposition and decay. Dissection and Plastination of an entire body requires about 1,500 working hours and normally takes about one year to complete.

In July 1977, while working as a scientist and research assistant at the University of Heidelberg’s Institute of Pathology and Anatomy, Dr. Gunther von Hagens had an outrageous notion. "I was looking at a collection of specimens embedded in plastic. It was the most advanced preservation technique then, where the specimens rested deep inside a transparent plastic block. I wondered why ... the plastic was poured and then cured around the specimens, rather than pushed into the cells, which would stabilize the specimens from within and literally allow you to grasp them," he said.

The notion was an epiphany for Dr. von Hagens, and the genesis of Plastination — his groundbreaking invention where all bodily fluids and soluble fat from anatomical specimens are extracted to stop decomposition, and replaced through vacuum-forced impregnation with reactive resins and elastomers, such as silicon rubber and epoxy that harden with gas, light, or heat curing, giving the specimens rigidity and permanence.

The First Plastinates
Weeks later, while working in his laboratory in Heidelberg, preparing serial slices of human kidneys for a research project, another thought occurred to Dr. von Hagens. As he embedded kidney slices in liquid acrylic, and watched the air bubbles that resulted from stirring the hardener that had to be extracted under vacuum he recalled, "It crossed my mind that it would be possible to impregnate an acetone soaked renal piece with plastic under vacuum conditions simply by extracting the acetone in the form of bubbles, just as is done in degassing."

Though many acetone bubbles were extracted from the specimen, it shriveled into a black mass within an hour. But he was undeterred by the result of his maiden voyage into the world of Plastination. His basic knowledge of physics and chemistry enabled him to conclude that the black coloration stemmed from the refractive qualities of the acrylic, and that the shrinkage was due to the accelerated speed of the impregnation process. This realization prompted him to repeat the experiment a week later using liquid silicone rubber that had more favorable light refractive properties. He administered the impregnation slowly, pouring fresh silicone in three separate baths to avoid premature hardening of the silicone and specimen from exposure to air. Then he cured the specimen in open air. At last it was that fateful day in 1977 that Dr. von Hagens held in his hands the world’s first plastinate.

Beginnings and Periods
In March of 1978, Dr. von Hagens filed a patent for his invention with the German Patent Office. Despite early setbacks, Dr. von Hagens persevered with what had become his professional and personal obsession. (moved up from below) However, he had only scratched the surface of Plastination. The refinement of his invention and the creation of the first whole body plastinate would take thirteen more years, though he still continues to refine and improve the process today. In 1981, he filed his patent for "Animal and Vegetal Tissues Permanently Preserved by Synthetic Resin Impregnation," with the US Patent Office. In quick succession, Dr. von Hagens published several academic papers about his invention, and established BIODUR, a business to market the essential ingredients and formulas for Plastination to now more than 400 medical schools and universities worldwide. He also founded the Institute for Plastination, and eventually created the BODY WORLDS anatomical exhibitions. Most recently he founded Von Hagens Plastination Laboratories to provide specimens for medical teaching and instruction to schools, universities and anatomical teaching institutes around the world.


1970's

While working as an anatomical assistant at the University of Heidelberg, Dr Gunther von Hagens sees specimens embedded in plastic blocks for the first time. He wonders why the plastic has been poured around the specimens in a block rather than stabilizing the specimens from within.

1977

During a research project on human kidneys Dr Gunther von Hagens is inspired by the idea for Plastination. On January 10, 1977, he held the first plastinate in his hands. Plastination is thus invented. He realizes that this invention will become his life’s work.

1978

Dr Gunther von Hagens spends the next twenty years at the Anatomical Institute of the University of Heidelberg as lecturer and scientist. During this time, he continuously enhances his method of Plastination, and makes further inventions, such as the Plastination of thin translucent slices of bodies and brains. Many patents follow in various countries, particularly in the USA.

1980

His technology is noticed at professional conferences. In order to make his breakthrough in the field of anatomy available to other universities, he founded BIODUR. Today BIODUR continues to sell supplies and equipment for Plastination worldwide.

1982

The first Conference on Plastination is held in Texas, and the International Society for Plastination (ISP) is founded. From then on international Plastination conferences are held every two years.

1980's

Dr Gunther von Hagens established his own body donation program for Plastination. Currently, there are more than 19.416 donors registered in the body donation program (as of Aug. 2018), a majority of the donors are German.

1993

The Plastination method continues to evolve and eventually reaches dimensions that outgrow its home at the university. To manage, Dr Gunther von Hagens founded the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg.

1995

Plastinated specimens are publicly displayed for the first time at the National Science Museum in Tokyo. The exhibition is surprisingly successful – it is visited by more than 450,000 people in only four months.

2000

Thanks to innovative developments of polymers, mechanically robust vessel configurations can be produced, i.e. synthetic casts of vessel systems. They are also called "corrosion specimens", because in the process of production surrounding soft tissues are usually corroded away with enzymes or acids.

2004

The BODY WORLDS exhibition is displayed at the California Science Center in Los Angeles for the first time. With further exhibitions in renowned science centers, BODY WORLDS exhibitions inspire visitors in North America and beyond.

2008

New developments allow for plastinated body slices to be colored as needed for optimal teaching. Coloration allows for never before seen distinctions between the various body tissues such as tight connective tissue and musculature or skin and subcutaneous tissue.

2010

Plastination entered new dimensions with the plastination of the first large animal, an elephant known as “Samba.” After completing the world’s first specimen of its kind, Dr Gunther von Hagens and curator Dr Angelina Whalley created a new exhibition BODY WORLDS of Animals, internationally known as ANIMAL INSIDE OUT.

2013

The Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) recognized Dr Gunther von Hagens inventor of the science of Plastination and creator of the BODY WORLDS anatomical exhibitions for lifetime achievement and outstanding contribution to the public understanding of science.

2017

A team of specialists at the Plastination center in Guben is dedicated to completing and producing unique and extraordinary orders for plastinates, including a 200 kg (440.9 lbs) blue whale heart for the Royal Ontario Museum.

1970's

While working as an anatomical assistant at the University of Heidelberg, Dr Gunther von Hagens sees specimens embedded in plastic blocks for the first time. He wonders why the plastic has been poured around the specimens in a block rather than stabilizing the specimens from within.

1977

During a research project on human kidneys Dr Gunther von Hagens is inspired by the idea for Plastination. On January 10, 1977, he held the first plastinate in his hands. Plastination is thus invented. He realizes that this invention will become his life’s work.

1978

Dr Gunther von Hagens spends the next twenty years at the Anatomical Institute of the University of Heidelberg as lecturer and scientist. During this time, he continuously enhances his method of Plastination, and makes further inventions, such as the Plastination of thin translucent slices of bodies and brains. Many patents follow in various countries, particularly in the USA.

1980

His technology is noticed at professional conferences. In order to make his breakthrough in the field of anatomy available to other universities, he founded BIODUR. Today BIODUR continues to sell supplies and equipment for Plastination worldwide.

1982

The first Conference on Plastination is held in Texas, and the International Society for Plastination (ISP) is founded. From then on international Plastination conferences are held every two years.

1980's

Dr Gunther von Hagens established his own body donation program for Plastination. Currently, there are more than 19.416 donors registered in the body donation program (as of Aug. 2018), a majority of the donors are German.

1993

The Plastination method continues to evolve and eventually reaches dimensions that outgrow its home at the university. To manage, Dr Gunther von Hagens founded the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg.

1995

Plastinated specimens are publicly displayed for the first time at the National Science Museum in Tokyo. The exhibition is surprisingly successful – it is visited by more than 450,000 people in only four months.

2000

Thanks to innovative developments of polymers, mechanically robust vessel configurations can be produced, i.e. synthetic casts of vessel systems. They are also called "corrosion specimens", because in the process of production surrounding soft tissues are usually corroded away with enzymes or acids.

2004

The BODY WORLDS exhibition is displayed at the California Science Center in Los Angeles for the first time. With further exhibitions in renowned science centers, BODY WORLDS exhibitions inspire visitors in North America and beyond.

2008

New developments allow for plastinated body slices to be colored as needed for optimal teaching. Coloration allows for never before seen distinctions between the various body tissues such as tight connective tissue and musculature or skin and subcutaneous tissue.

2010

Plastination entered new dimensions with the plastination of the first large animal, an elephant known as “Samba.” After completing the world’s first specimen of its kind, Dr Gunther von Hagens and curator Dr Angelina Whalley created a new exhibition BODY WORLDS of Animals, internationally known as ANIMAL INSIDE OUT.

2013

The Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) recognized Dr Gunther von Hagens inventor of the science of Plastination and creator of the BODY WORLDS anatomical exhibitions for lifetime achievement and outstanding contribution to the public understanding of science.

2017

A team of specialists at the Plastination center in Guben is dedicated to completing and producing unique and extraordinary orders for plastinates, including a 200 kg (440.9 lbs) blue whale heart for the Royal Ontario Museum.

Anatomy and Plastination Courses

The permanent exhibition and our Anatomy Training Center are based at the PLASTINARIUM, and housed in unique, historical buildings two hours from Berlin in Guben, Germany. The building has been reconstructed and adapted to create the perfect environment to provide anatomy courses.

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Anatomy Courses

Anatomy courses are geared towards all medical education institutes and to members of all medical disciplines and related apprentices. All Anatomy courses are conducted and assisted by our experienced dissection staff. Compared to normal teaching environments, we offer small classes in our customized facilities.

Using a more practical approach, we supply formaldehyde induced specimens and plastinates to teach anatomy. The classes are far more vivid and didactically understandable than learning with traditional methods.

We offer conference and class rooms of different sizes, self-learning-stations with computer software for learning anatomy and a wide selection of plastinates for all regions and types of theoretical anatomy classes. There is also a library with a wide selection of anatomy books and literature to server as additional learning aids.

All courses can be booked through our service staff in Germany, please don't hesitate to ask for further assistance, information and pricing.

Contact Information:
Email: contact@guben.plastination.com
Phone: +49 3561 5474 302
Adresse: Uferstr. 26, 03172 Guben
Office hours: 8 AM - 5 PM (GMT +1 (Berlin))

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Plastination Courses

Von Hagens Plastination cooperates with BIODUR offering Plastination courses for professionals who already plastinate or who are planning to open their own plastination laboratory. The experienced BIODUR staff can provide deep insight into plastination and the know-how you need to produce plastinates on your own.

BIODUR courses take place in Heidelberg, Germany.

For further information please contact:
Email: contact@biodur.de
Phone: +49 - 6221 - 33 11 11
Fax: +49 - 6221 - 33 11 12