What is Plastination?
The preservation and demonstration of anatomical specimens that retain much of their natural features has been a long-standing goal of anatomists, pathologists and other medical educators. Preservation of most biological tissues is performed using liquids such as formaldehyde, alcohol, and glycerin. Although these commonly used liquids are efficient, they have many disadvantages.
Plastination is a technique of tissue preservation developed by Gunther von Hagens in 1977 consists of forced impregnation of biological specimens with plastic resins. Plastinated specimens offer advantages over other methods of preservation because they are anatomically precise, clean, dry and easy to handle. These specimens provide an excellent tool for teaching anatomy and pathology, for patient education, and potentially as an augmentation to MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computer tomography) analysis. Specimens produced by plastination are dry, odorless, rather durable and usually free from encasing material.
During the process of plastination, water and lipids in biological tissues are replaced by polymers such as silicone, epoxy or polyester. Each of these resins produces variation in the rigidity and opacity of the final product. Silicone is generally used for plastination of whole specimens and thick body and organ slices; epoxy resins and polyesters are used for hard, thin, transparent body, organ slices and brain slices. Polyester is used for brain slices and is excellent to distinguish gray from white matter.
See the Methods section of this website for the description of the plastination technique.