Adrian College Acquires ‘Plastinates’ Anatomy Specimens

ADRIAN, Mich. – Adrian College has obtained plastinated anatomy specimens to be used for anatomy instruction, an addition that continues to demonstrate its firm commitment to implementing a unique academic approach to education. The interest in health sciences at Adrian College has grown in recent years to include nearly 1/3 of incoming freshmen. Students may choose from pre-health tracks including pre-med, pre- dentistry, pre-physical therapy, or may major in the 5 year combined Bachelor’s/Master’s degree program in athletic training.

“Regardless of the health field, all of these students have an interest and an obligation to learn human anatomy,” said Dr. Tina Claiborne, Associate Professor, Director and Clinical Education Coordinator of athletic training education at Adrian College. “In order to produce competitive medical and graduate students, the preparation and exposure they receive as an undergraduate is critical.”

Plastination is an organic materials preservation technique that was invented in the late 1970s by a German Anatomist, Gunther von Hagens. The process would become famous when the Body Worlds anatomy exhibition was first presented in Tokyo in 1995. The spectacular showing of the human form in healthy and pathological states has astonished more than 32 million viewers across the world since. (http://www.bodyworlds.com/en.html)

To date, the most common types of specimens used for anatomy instruction has been embalmed human cadavers. During the embalming process , the bodies are preserved for months and maintain some natural tissue textures and properties. However, the use of formaldehyde for the preservation of human cadavers has remained controversial due to the noxious and carcinogenic nature of the chemical. Though the tissue qualities of plastinated specimens are arguably more rigid and not as natural as an embalmed specimen, the barriers to using embalmed human cadavers have prompted colleges and universities to consider plastinated specimens as an adjunctive teaching tool. The advantages of plastinated specimens is that they are odorless, safe to handle without gloves, easily transported, durable, and have a long shelf life. Because of this, there is no longer the need for specialized labs or staffing, and the financial investment lasts years rather than a single semester. While there is a distinct and unique learning experience that takes place during human dissection, the need for specialized cadaver labs, knowledgeable staff and constant specimen replacement make the traditional gross anatomy labs expensive and challenging to maintain. Because of this, it has been reported that over 40 medical and dental schools now use plastinates as teaching tools. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that student-learning outcomes are equally as, if not more positive when using plastinates as compared with embalmed human cadavers.

With the addition of the von Hagens specimens, Adrian College has become a member of a very elite club. The College is the seventh higher education institution in the world, and only the third in the United States to obtain the famous German “born” plastinates. Additionally, the College will be adding significantly to their existing collection by supporting a local human plastination lab at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Dr. Carlos Baptista of the College of Medicine/ Department of Neurosciences is preparing 17 custom specimens to complete the college’s collection. Dr. Baptista has studied with Gunther von Hagens and is the current President of the International Society for Plastination. He is truly an expert in the field and the College is thrilled to work with him on this endeavor.

“The acquisition of plastinates for use in the entry level anatomy course will allow Adrian College students to receive a cutting edge education that will place them at the top of their graduate anatomy classes,” said Dr. Kevin Darr, professor of exercise science and physical education. “It is exactly this type of creativity, progressive thinking and innovation that allows Adrian College to continue to evolve and attract the best and brightest students.”

The College intends to host an open house later this fall offering a first-glimpse at the new educational specimens. This event will be open to the public.