Friday, February 13, 2015

Artifact Spotlight: Valentine's Day Edition

We recently photographed some of our favorite artifacts for outreach materials, and were struck by how classically "heart-shaped" this heart model appears. I couldn't resist sharing it on such a timely occasion!

Photo by Max Johnson
This vascular corrosion cast of an unidentified heart is one of several held in the School of Dentistry Artifact Collection.

The practice of injecting materials into vascular systems for anatomical study dates back centuries, but the technique of injecting solidifying materials to create anatomical casts developed in the 17th century, when Jam Swammerdam experimented with a mix of beeswax, tallow, and resin.[1] By the twentieth century, the method utilized synthetic polymers such as neoprene latex and polyester resin. Creating a corrosion cast first requires removing the blood from the organ and injecting a polymer, such as resin, which will fill the space in place of the blood. When the injected material has hardened, the next step is to corrode away the surrounding tissue with an alkaline solution, so that all that remains is a hardened cast of the vascular system. As you can see from this photo, this technique even captures tiny vessels! More recently, a similar method was used in the popular traveling "Body Worlds" exhibit.

If you'd like to see more of these casts, or discuss other anatomical artifacts, contact me at and we can set up an appointment to visit our research room.

From the bottom of our [plasticized] hearts, Happy Valentine's Day from HC&A!

[1] Tompsett, D. H. (1969). Anatomical injections. Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England45(2), 108–115.

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