Features‘Body Worlds’ Exhibit Gets Skin Deep

El Vaquero Staff Writer

At the California Science Center viewers of “Body Worlds” are mystified and left in awe of the human body. This eerie exhibit uses real cadavers and body parts.

“This exhibit gives the public an opportunity usually reserved for medical professionals,” said Dr. Richard Sass, senior research scholar, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. “Viewers get a chance to look inside their own bodies and experience the wonder and respect for what it means to be human.”

There are more than 200 specimens of organs, body parts, transparent slices and 25 whole body specimens in the exhibit. Each specimen has been carefully dissected and preserved in a process called plastination.
A German scientist named Dr. Gunther von Hagens created the process in 1977.

It is a process in which the body’s water and fat are vacuumed out and replaced with a fluid plastic that hardens to retain the body’s tissue. It takes about 1,500 hours to transform a cadaver into a full-body “plastine.”

Most of the full-body plastine models are male because their muscle structure is generally more pronounced and they better illustrate the aspects of the muscular system.

Hagens also wanted to stay with the traditional art of anatomy and with the use of males, but however more female specimens will be added in the future.

The bodies are donated by people who wish to have their bodies help science and the public.

The exhibit is broken down into different sections, including the muscular system, the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.
Each section has specimens that relate to their respective system and the plastines that are in that section have been dissected and posed to emphasize the correlating systems that relate to each other
There are many different specimens in this exhibit which includes a skeleton that has had its muscles removed and placed standing next to it. This allows the viewer to compare the skeleton with the muscular system of the same body.

One of the more interesting full-figure plastine models is that of a basketball player who is placed in a running position with both arms outstretched and a basketball in one hand.

This plastine model shows the muscles that lie right under the skin and is the most muscular donor to be plastinated to this day.

One of the more disturbing is that of a woman who died during her eighth month of pregnancy. She was ill and knew she may not survive her pregnancy so she willingly donated her body to science. Her body has been skinned and her uterus has been opened up to see her unborn fetus lying in her womb.

One of the most amazing full-body plastines is that of a horse and a rider.

A real horse was used and the real human cadaver was placed on its back. It was used to show the comparison between the horse’s muscular system to that of a human.

There are many specimens of body parts and organs in the exhibit. Some show what can happen when you make unhealthy lifestyle choices and others show the damage of disease and injury to the body.

There are pair of lungs in the exhibit that are blackened from the tar of cigarette smoke.

This shows the viewer how detrimental smoking can be to the body.

Another specimen is of a liver that has been heavily damaged by years of drinking alcohol.

One of the more interesting specimens is a slice of a brain that has been affected by a large brain tumor. The viewer can literally see the blackened area of the brain and just how large the tumor was.

“It made me feel aware of my body and how delicate it is,” said 12-year-old Jenna Pote.

“Body Worlds” truly gives audiences the opportunity to unlock the mysteries under our skin and obtain a real understanding of how our body works.

“It shocked me to see such an amazing collection of cadavers,” said 14-year-old Caroline Van Why.

The “Body Worlds” exhibit will run at the California Science Center until Jan. 23, 2005. The exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The admission price is $12.50 for adults, $5.75 for children 4 to 12 and $9.50 for students with identification or seniors 60 and over.
The California Science Center is located at Exposition Park, 700 State Drive, Los Angeles. It is located off the 110 Freeway near USC.