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Plastic fantastic


Watch Professor Abrahams demonstrate the
use of plastination in anatomy teaching

More than 200 body parts from Gunther von Hagens’ laboratory in Germany are being used to teach anatomy to medical students at the University’s medical school. This is the first time von Hagens’ plastinated specimens have been used for teaching by a UK medical school.

Warwick Medical School has spent around £400,000 on the educational specimens, which were made to order specifically for the School and travelled to the UK with other specimens for von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibition in London’s O2 arena in October 2008. 

Medical, educational and instructional

Dr von Hagens’ plastination technique involves removing body fat and water and impregnating a polymer to preserve the body or body part. The preservation is of the highest quality, so that they can be used for medical, educational and instructional purposes. The specimens originate from body donors to von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination in Guben, Germany.

Warwick Medical School’s Chair of Clinical Anatomy Professor Peter Abrahams said the specimens were essential for anatomy teaching. "Gunther von Hagens’ plastination technique is the most effective and his specimens are of the highest quality. Our students can use these specimens again and again to understand how the body works.  They will be a unique and invaluable tool for the training of doctors."

Centre for excellence

The funding for the purchase came from the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority as part of a £1.1 million grant for a joint project between the University and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire to create a centre for excellence in anatomy and surgical skills.

The new anatomy centre, based at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, will provide both postgraduate and undergraduate teaching. It will be used to teach anatomy to Warwick medical students but will also provide postgraduate training for newly qualified doctors and advanced anatomy training for a variety of health professionals, particularly surgeons.

High specification equipment will include anatomy tables with linked monitors showing e-learning material. Students will be able to see enhanced images, showing the structure and function of the body parts being examined during dissection. There will also be a link to the hospital’s network which will allow clinical imaging and live video links to operating theatres for anatomy and surgical operative teaching sessions.

A portion of the £1.1 million grant has already been used to buy new equipment to teach clinical skills at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, including a life-size talking dummy called Sim Man. Sim Man is a computer-operated simulator which allows the students to perform complex procedures without endangering patients' lives. It reacts to students’ attempts to treat him and can even be programmed to die and then be resuscitated.

Professor Peter Abrahams said "The development of this facility is vital; the teaching of clinical anatomy remains a fundamental requirement of any undergraduate medical curriculum."