Mission & Objectives

Gunther von Hagens found it necessary to establish the Institute for Plastination (IfP) in 1993 because the space and technical facilities available at the University of Heidelberg were no longer adequate for the growing demands of Plastination. The IfP in Heidelberg was where the techniques for preparing whole-body plastinates and transparent slices of whole bodies were perfected. The complexity and work involved in preparing these specimens far exceeds the capacity of most interested institutes. Preparing a technically correct, whole-body plastinate does, after all, require 1000 to 1500 man-hours.

The aim of the IfP is to produce human specimens and make them available both for basic and continuing medical training as well as for the general medical education of the public. The specimens are prepared solely for this purpose and only passed on directly to recognized educational and research establishments and scientific museums, but not to private individuals or dealers.

The objectives of the IfP can be summarized as follows:

  1. Improving overall anatomical instruction
    The IfP produces high-quality educational specimens for anatomical instruction at universities and other teaching institutions.

  2. Improving awareness of medical issues, particularly among the general public
    The IfP produces plastinates aimed at educating non-medical professionals and restores public access to the anatomy of the human body.

  3. Popularizing and developing plastination techniques
    The IfP disseminates plastination expertise around the world, allowing other teaching institutions to profit from this unique process. The IfP also pursues scientific objectives and strives continually to develop and refine the techniques of Plastination and the resulting anatomical specimens. It is aided in these endeavors by visiting scientists and scholarship holders from national and international universities.

There are now more than 400 plastination laboratories in 40 countries around the world using Plastination to prepare specimens for academic study. Despite all of the progress made to date, the need for further research is immense. Tests need to be performed, for instance, on new polymers that could be used to retain the color of tissues and to improve plastination results for specimens such as the eye, which are difficult to preserve.

Every two years, participants at the International Plastination Conference have the opportunity of exhibiting the plastinates that they have produced. In addition, the "International Society for Plastination" and its publication "The Journal of Plastination" (former "The Journal of the International Society for Plastination")  provide additional forums for experts in the field to exchange information concerning advances in the scientific application of the process. Current issues include how slice Plastinates can be used to show complex systems such as the blood supply to the bones of the wrist or how to display subtle structures such as the muscles and nerves surrounding the prostate. These tissues are critical for proper sexual functioning and understanding them is an extremely important means of obtaining precision when planning delicate surgical procedures.