Growing into Plastination

Elizabeth Bizzell

From digital anatomy products to lifelike, fully functioning mannequins, the Dumke College of Health Professions is well known for leading the way in health profession technologies and innovative instructional materials. But one display in DCHP’s sweeping labs is, well, lifeless.

The WSU health sciences department has been working to academically enhance their lab courses with new human cadaver specimens. Intricate plastinated models expose every line of the human body’s entangled structures.

Plastination is a process to replace the body’s fats and liquids with preserving plastics that allow students to study and handle the finished samples. The plastics retain many of the body’s attributes, but they do not decay or smell.

It wouldn’t be unfair to call the realistic representations of human upper and lower extremities, a head, a heart, a set of lungs, and everything in between, “art.” These cadavers are ordered through Gubener Plastinate in Heidelberg, Germany, the same group that tours with the Body Worlds exhibit.

In 2014, the health sciences department began purchasing from Gubener Plastinate in hopes of replacing old, overused cadaver models. Thanks to generous donors and grants, the department compiled two complete body sets of cadavers for the Ogden campus and Weber State University Davis lab locations.

Kraig Chugg, health sciences department chair, is looking forward to the possibilities the cadaver upgrades offer. “These new specimens are an amazing addition to our labs,” he said. “They will provide amazing learning opportunities for students who want to spend the time to master their anatomy skills. These are high quality, detailed dissections of human tissue that can also be utilized by many departments both inside and out of the College of Health Professions.”