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Not for the faint of heart -- the world of the body

Body Worlds 3 exhibits dead bodies, promotes a healthy heart

Posted: March 21, 2008 4:32 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Dr. Gunther von Hagens, 63, a German scientist who invented "plastination," discusses the bodies on exhibit at "Body Worlds 3, currently on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. A controversial anatomist who performs public dissections, Dr. von Hagens was born in Western Poland in 1945. A hemophiliac as a child, hit lot in lif...

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There was a time that only a select few could see an actual human heart - surgeons, coroners, scientists, anatomy students, etc. Now, thanks to the marvels of modern technology and the work of Dr. Gunther von Hagens, over 25 million people have set their eyes on the red organ just behind our left lung.

.Now at the California Science Center in Los Angeles' Exposition Park, "Body Worlds 3 & The Story of the Heart" stunningly exhibits over 200 "preserved" bodies, where visitors can view actual organs, body parts, and, of course, the heart.

"I think it is important for people to see how the heart works with the rest of the body," von Hagens said. "The heart and the brain are both essential organs for the body and affect us equally."

Be warned, though. While Body Worlds 3 may promote a healthier heart, it definitely is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. Yes, the heart, nerves, muscles and bones are all real.

As inventor of Plastination and creator of the Body Worlds exhibitions, von Hagens sliced and diced numerous deceased humans for one purpose - the educate the living on how different portions of the body's system relates to one another and work together to help the human body survive.

Looking at the human body from the inside out, visitors can see just how many muscles an ice skater uses in a twirl, or how the heart, brain and muscles work with each other when a women fires a bow and arrow.
Among the notable exhibits that vividly displays the inner workings of the human body are:
* The Archer;
* Body Slices;
* The Dancer;
* Configuration of the Arteries of the Head and Brain.

Visitors strolling through morbid exhibit will also see a body with prosthetics such as artificial hip joints or heart valves, or a liver with cirrhosis. If that was not enough, people can view two sets of lungs set side by side - one of a smoker and another of a non-smoker, to compare the effects of smoking.

While most people may be able to handle dirty lungs or artificial hip joints, there is a prenatal wing that features fetuses and embryos.

"The lifestyle we choose has a significant impact on the human body," von Hagens said. "Body Worlds is about health education."

Through a process called "Plastination," von Hagens tours the globe with authentic human specimens - people once alive who have donated their bodies to the German doctor. Invented by Hagens in 1977, Plastination reveals the inner anatomical structures of the human body. It preserves bodies or body parts by replacing water and fat with plastics, meaning the bodies can be touched and do not smell or decay.

With the help of his wife Dr. Angelina Whalley, the creative and conceptual designer of the exhibitions, von Hagens has taken Body Worlds 3 to six cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, St. Louis, Portland and Vancouver.

Body Worlds started in 1995 with an exhibit in Tokyo, Japan, and is now an international phenomenon that travels the globe.

In Los Angeles for the third time, the California Science Center hosted the United States premiere of Body Worlds in 2004 and Body Worlds 2 in 2005. Combined, the exhibits made Science Center history with more than 930,000 visitors combined.

This year's exhibit will run through Sept. 7. For more information about the exhibit, visit www.bodyworlds.com or watch The Signal's exclusive video.

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