Whole body plastination, intra-organ heterogeneity, and tissue based diagnosis – a survey
Background: The corpse is the final structural relict of life. Its detailed analysis, the autopsy formed the basis and contributed significantly to our understanding of location, function and interaction of organs in man. Today, autopsies are performed rarely. They have been replaced by radiological in vivo visualization techniques and the analysis of organ excisions and biopsies. Which attributes do whole body preservations possess in this context?
Techniques of Whole Body Analysis: In vivo imaging transfers the appearance of body organs and cellular structures in virtual images. The patient’s exposure to X-rays, fundamental particles (electrons, positrons, etc.), strong magnetic fields (nuclear resonance), or ultra sounds release the corresponding signals. The obtained images are interpreted in search for local abnormalities such as cancer, acute and chronic infections, inborn errors, hypertrophy or atrophy.
Autopsies require the removal and visual inspection of organs shortly after the victim’s death. In addition, tissue probes of suspicious lesions are fixed and microscopically analyzed. The search for gene or protein abnormalities are added dependent upon the clinical history and gross findings.
The whole body plastination is performed in separated steps which include fixation, anatomical dissection, forced polymer impregnation, positioning and curing. Organs and other tissue structures can be taken out of the body and separately demonstrated, or aligned and fixed within the body. Additional tissue examinations are possible at this stage, which is followed by hardening and fixation of the still flexible body. Fixation is done with heat, light or gas.
Results and Interpretation: Tissue conservation is a prerequisite to analyze and investigate in diagnosis and forecast of disease occurrence and behaviour. In history, autopsies have opened the door to localize the position and to understand the functions of organs. Today, they have been replaced by tissue banking and in vivo examinations in a wide range, especially when local lesions of organs are under investigation. Analysis of blood and serum is the main technique to search for organ dysfunction. Whole body plastination is an appropriate technique to investigate and demonstrate healthy appearance of organs, intra-organ heterogeneity, connection to and communication with neighbouring or distant organs as well as localization and distribution of organ lesions, and the associated functional impact.
Perspectives: Modern societies try to inform their citizens by numerous investigations of the public health status and to improve the health condition as well as to minimize the development of behaviour associated diseases such as smoking and lung cancer, or overweight and infarction. Well performed body conservation supports these efforts. In addition, it can be considered an innovative technique to understand, diagnose, and even treat dysfunction of intra-body communication at the physical and even mental level.
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