Teaching Workshop

At the heart of the PLASTINARIUM is the teaching workshop.

The PLASTINARIUM - as the public area of Gubener Plastinate GmbH makes Gunther von Hagens`democratization of anatomy a reality by giving laypersons the opportunity to study real human specimens.
The whole-body and slice specimens produced in Guben are particularly suited for this purpose, as more than 49 million visitors to the BODY WORLDS exhibition in over 32 countries and more than 137 cities worldwide can attest to. 

In the learning workshop, pupils, trainees and students can teach themselves and prepare for exams using provided plastinates, models, computers and specialist books. Also doctors, professors, healing practitioners and medical enterprises find a unique opportunity to further education and research on a high level.

Highly complex study plastinates, e.g. skeletons, sheet plastinates, blood vessel configurations and aesthetical large-scale plastinates are made here - human beings and animals are preserved for eternity. Thus, the PLASTINARIUM makes a valuable contribution to medical education, information and health care.

Unlike our BODY WORLDS exhibitions, the PLASTINARIUM also offers visitors insights into the practical production process of plastinates.

In a separate section visitors may watch our employees preparing anatomical specimens. In the workshop area, the positioning department may be viewed. After vacuum impregnation, the body is positioned as disered. Every single anatomical structure is properly aligned and fixed with the help of wires, needles, clamps, and foam blocks. In the final step, the specimen is hardened. 

Find out more about the individual stages of the teaching workshop and the production departments Anatomical Dissection and Positioning:

Locomotive System - Nervous System - Cardiovascular System - Respiratory System - Digestive System - Urinary System - Prenatal Development - Anatomical Dissection - Positioning


    The Locomotive System

    The first station in the learning workshop dedicated to the locomotive system.

    The human body is composed of various system working together in an orderly fashion to form a unified whole and to perform the function of life.
    The body`s movements, including both stationary and forward motion, constitute a significant portion of these functions.
    Movements are made possible by what is known as the locomotive system which consists of the bones, muscles, and joints.

    All bones together make up the skeleton. It has over 200 bones and 100 moveable joints. The skeleton gives us shape, provides stability, and allows mobility.

    The skeletal muscles are attached to the skleleton, creating a system of mechanical levers that convert muscular action into movement.

    A muscle is a biological flexor.  It functions in that its fibres contract to become shorter. There are over 620 voluntary muscles, each with its own function, supply of nerves and its own points of origin and attachment. Even the slightest bodily movements are generally not performed by one isolated muscle. Instead, various muscle groups are involved in a complex interplay, often with conflicting results.



    Nervous System

    At the second station of the teaching workshop you will learn important facts about the nervous system.

    Without a central communication system with connections that encompass an entire country from one end to the other, a modern nation would soon become ungovernable. It is the same with the human body and its nervous system.

    The nervous system regulates hundreds of activities simultaneously. It monitors and controls almost all bodily processes, ranging from automatic functions of which we are largely unconscious, such as breathing and digestion, to complex activities that involve thougt and learning. It is also the source of our consciousness, intelligence, and creativity and allows us to communicate and experience emotions.

    The nervous system can be divided into two parts:

    • The central nervous system - composed of the brain and the spinal cord. It regulates bodily activities by processing and coordinating nerve signals.
    • The peripheral nervous system - is made up of all the nerves that emanate from the central nervous system and branch out throughout the body. They transmit the signals between the central nervous system and the rest of the body

    The brain is the body`s command centre. It processes sensory information, coordinates most movement and thinking, and allows us to feel, remember, and communicate.



    The Cardiovascular System

    The third station gives insights in our organism`s major transport system.

    Not only does it distribute nutrients, oxygen and hormones to individual regions of the body; it also collects metabolic by products which are then eliminated. The heart is the engine of this system, and the dense network of blood vessels form the transport routes.

    Generally speaking, the vessels represent major highways that distribute blood to the body. They down more and more as they pass into the organs and tissue to form an intricate network of minute, hair-like vessels called capillaries. It is here that the interchange of nutrients, oxygen, and other substances takes place between the blood and tissue cells.

    The dens network of arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart is more than 96,500 kilometres (60,000 miles) long. Laid end to end, the cardiovascular network of an average adult would wrap around the earth mor than twice.

    The heart is the engine ot the cardiovascular system. The hollow, muscular organ constantly pumps blood around the body. Its muscle fibres run spirally to that it can contract the chambers on all sides. The size of the heart is roughly that of our fist and weights approximately 300 grams (11 ounces). At rest, the heart has about 70 beats per minute and pumps about 75 millilitres (3 ounces) of blood through the body with each beat. This adds up to about 1 million barrels of blood during an average lifetime of around 75 years.



    The Respiratory System

    The fourth station of the teaching workshop informed about the respiratory system.

    Human life requires a continuous supply of oxygen, which we extract from the air. Withour this element, most of the body`s cells would not be able to survive more than a few minutes. Oxygen is indispensable for cell metabolism, a process that transforms nutrients into energy to keep the body functioning.

    The lungs absorb oxygen from the air and pass it on to the blood. Every minute, about 5-6 litres (11 to 13 pints) of air pass into the lungs. When we breathe in, muscles work to expand the chest. The primary respiratory muscle is the diaphragma. This is a thin dome-shaped muscular partition that separates the chest from the abdomen.

    Although we can influence our breathing, it is usually controlled subconsciously by the respiratory centre in the brain. When we breathe in, we also inhale fine particles of dust, that form deposits in the lung tissue. Tar and soot particles from cigarette smoke form deposits in the pulmonary tissue. The deposits turn the lung black. Just 20 cigarettes a day produce an annual 150 millilitres (5 fl. ounces) of tar. That is about the volume of a full coffee cup.

    After quitting smoking, the tar will gradually decompose and the lungs will recover - even after many years of smoking. Also smoking related health risks can greatly be reduced.



    Digestive System

    At the fifth station in the teaching workshop, you can learn all about the digestive system. 

    All of the organs of the human body require an uniterrupted supply of energy if they are to perform their functions properly. Once they have been processed chemically, the nutrients present in food and absorbed through the digestive tract provide the organism with the energy that it requires. The organs of the digestive tract break down food both mechanically and chemically in way that allows the nutrients to pass into the blood, where they can be transported to each individual cell.

    The digestive tract is like a long tube - roughly 9 metres (30 feet) in length. Food is first coarsely broken down in the mouth, then passes through the oesophagus and into the stomach. Gradually, it is fed into the duodenum where digestive enzymes from the liver and pancreas are added. The small intestine is a main site of digestion, where nutrient molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream. Indigestible food particles pass into the large intestine where water is extracted. They are then excreted through the rectum. The entire digestive process takes up to 20 hours.

    Obesity occurs over time when we eat more calories than we need. The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person. Factors that might tip the balance include the genetic makeup, overeating, eating high-fat foods and not being physically active.
    Being obese increases the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, stroke, and some forms of cancer. It especially puts a strain on the heart.



    Urinary System

    The sixth station of the teaching workshop informed about the urinary system.

    Like any organism, the complex human body also produce waste. Part of these waste products are discharged through urine. In addition, the kidneys constantly filter dissolved waste products and water out of the body.

    The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs. They are located on either side of the spine. They are set in the renal bed, the perinephrium, held in a thick layer of fatty tissue, and protected by the ribcage.

    The size of the kidneys is dependent on the body size. Each kidney weights on average 115-200 grams (4-7 ounces).

    The body`s entire volume of blood flows through the kidneys around 15 times each hour. The blood is filtered by the renal corpuscles and their fine clusters of blood vessels (glomeruli).

    Kidneys play a major role in the regulation of blood pressure by keeping the body fluids balanced. Extra fluid in the body increases the amount of fluid in the blood vessels and raises the blood pressure.



    Prenatal Development

    The seventh and final station informed about the prenatal development.

    The first period of human life takes place invisibly in the mother`s body. A single cell, or zygote, is formed when the father`s sperm fertilises the mother`s egg.

    It carries its own unique set of chromosomes that determine the characteristics and traits of the conceived human being. The zygote is hardworking and tireless. One hour after conception, it begins to divide and multiply. Eight hours after conception, the zygote has already formed 1,000 cells. With humans, pregnancy lasts an average of 266 days.

    When the fertilised egg travels down the fallopian tubes, it divides several times before embedding itself in the lining of the uterus. After only four weeks, an embryo already has a heart and eyes. It also has four buds, the start of its arms and legs. After eight weeks, organs differentiation is largely completed.

    The developing child is called a foetus after the ninth week of pregnancy. This is a phase of growth and organ maturation.

    The embryo, suspended in amniotic fluid and surrounded by foetal membranes, is linked to the maternal blood supply via the umbilical cord and placenta. The foetus`heart pumps blood through the umbilical cord artery to the vascular bed of the placenta. This is bathed in the mother`s blood from the lining of the uterus. Here, substances, such as oxygen and nutrients, as well as waste and CO2, are exchanged. This exchange can then occur without mixing the mother`s and child`s blood. Oxygen- and nutrient-enriched blood flows back to the foetus via the umbilical vein.



    Anatomical Dissection

    The first step of the process involves halting decay by pumping formalin into the body through the arteries. Formalin kills all bacteria and chemically stops the decay of tissue.

    Next is the area of anatomical dissection.
    In a freely accessible section of a room off the teaching workshop, visitors may closely watch our employees as they go about their dissection work. At least one employee will be working in the dissection department at any time, even on Saturdays and Sundays.
    The organs, muscles, tendons, nerves, and vessels of the body are encased in a thin layer of fibrous connective tissue. This connective tissue both stabilizes the organs and allows them to move against each other.

    Dissectiing means carefully removing the connective tissue cover in the appropriate places using tweezers, scalpels, and scissors, revealing the individual anatomical structures.

    The art of dissection consists of removing the rigid connective tissue from the softer structures underneaths, such as organs and veins. This may be compared to completely removing the white fiber beneath the skin of an orange without injuring the flesh of the fruit.

    Thus, a dissector needs patience and skill. Dissecting a body may require up to 750 hours of work to complete.




    After the anatomical dissection follows the dehydration and defatting, the body water and soluble fats are dissolved from the body by placing it into a solvent bath (e.g., an acetone bath). Followed by the central step in Plastination. During forced impregnation a reactive polymer, e.g., silicone rubber, replaces the acetone.

    In the positioning area, the plastinates soaked in liquid silicone rubber are given their final form. The plastic inside the cells is still liquid. Thus, the soft tissue of the plastinate, in particular the muscles, can still be readily shaped.

    After vacuum impregnation, the body is positioned as desired. Every single anatomical structure is properly aligned and fixed with the help of wires, needles, clamps, and foam blocks.

    Whole bodies are posed in life-like postures. This allows visitors to view the muscles in their functional positions.

    Natural specimens are especially valuable for medical studies and also for laypersons as the complicated structure of the locomotor system and organs as well as their relative positions and relationships to one another cannot be fully comprehended in their three-dimensional complexity when only books are used.

    The positioning department is located directly in the teaching workshop.

    In the final step, the specimen is hardened. Depending on the polymer used, this is done with gas, light, or heat.