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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Body Worlds


The Peruvian, racially mixed chroniquer : Garcilaso of la Vega, refers in Los Comentarios Reales de los Incas, to have been a witness of the walkings -in special dates- along the streets of Cusco, of the last Inca mummified kings (totally dehydrated and covered with certain antiseptic substances), in order to preserve certain ancient customs. By then (1609), he did not have better idea than touching personally a well preserved mummy, being surprised of the lightness of this: ~ 6 kilograms. Hundreds of pre-hispanic mummies well preserved, have permitted the Peruvians to understand better the process of mummification, verifying that 90% of the constitution of any human body, is water (70 kilograms, total normal weight = 63 kg of water and 7 kg of solid weight). As you can see, Garcilaso, was not ill in its calculations. According to The NYTimes, Gunther Von Hagens (61), a young oriental german, opposed to Communism, affirms that after studied medicine some years in Jena (East Germany), migrated to West Germany, concluding his medicine’s career in Lubeck, Medical School. After working in some hospitals he managed to be teacher of Anatomy and Biology in the Heildelbegr University, in which he perfected a variant of ancient mummification technic. For it, he preserves the bodies in formaldehyde, injecting formalin to all arteries, extracts fat and the totality of body liquids, replacing them with soft chemical polymers (elastomers: silicon rubber, epoxy, poliester), or with transparent or opaque plastics (plastination process), cure the corpses (with light, heat or certain gases) and finally reconstructed the original corporal shape, to a very close resemblance as when they were alive. Their spectacle "Body Worlds" has traveled through the world, being blockbuster success in any natural or sciences museums, where they showed the corpses. To Hagens goes so well that now he not alone preserves human bodies, but also elephants, ostriches, bears, giraffes, any alive organism put in front of him.

Hagens, that began to exhibit his preserved human bodies in 1995, did not have a lot of initial acceptance, specially in Europe. However his work improved, when after anchoring in Dalian/China (1999), began to employ cheap labor, found few governmental restrictions, acquired with facility bodies and human organs and rented the know how of local medical students. The only problem of Hagens, is that now competitors have left him: one American, with headquarters in Atlanta (Company, Premier Exhibition, author of "Bodies: The Exhibition") and another Chinese, headed by his ex - manager, the Dr.Sui Hongjin. Both accuse Hagens of trafficking with organs and human bodies of executed prisoners, sick mental and/ or, chinese dead of not natural causes. At the same time, Hagens accuses them of practicing copycat (plagiarists of all his spectacles) and defends himself assuring that he obtains its corpses especially from Europe (bodies that the police delivers to medical schools) and from voluntary donations. Anyway, the prohibition has obliged to the Chinese government to emit a series of restrictive laws, vetoing the export of preserved chinese corpses. Despite it, they continue being opening more fabrics of plastination in several chinese cities, what suggests that the business is highly profitable. Hagens adds that his organs and corpses preservation system is permitting the democratization of the anatomy, putting bodies and organs to reach of the layman, unimaginable before, to its view and touch.

Cuerpos del mundo.

El cronista mestizo, peruano : Garcilaso de la Vega, refiere haber sido testigo del paseo en andas en fechas especiales, por las calles del Cusco, de los últimos reyes incas momificados (totalmente deshidratados y cubiertos con ciertas sustancias antisépticas), a fin de preservar ciertas costumbres ancestrales. Por entonces (1609), Garcilaso no tuvo mejor idea que tocar personalmente una momia bien preservada, sorprendiéndose de la levedad de esta : ~ 6 kilos. Cientos de momias prehispánicas bien conservadas, han permitido a los peruanos entender mejor el proceso de momificación, al constatarse que el 90% de la constitución de cualquier cuerpo humano, es agua (70 kilos (peso total) = 63 kg de agua y 7 kg de peso sólido). Como se vé, Garcilaso, no estuvo mal en sus cálculos. Según el NYTimes, Gunther Von Hagens (61), un joven alemán oriental, opuesto al comunismo, afirma que trás haber cursado algunos años de medicina en la Universidad de Jena, migro a Alemania occidental culminando su carrera de médico en la Universidad de Lubeck. Después de trabajar como medico en algunos hospitales, recaló en la Universidad de Heildelberg, donde logró perfeccionar una variante de conocidas técnicas momificatorias. Para ello, preserva los cuerpos en formaldehído, llena todas las arterias con formalina, les extrae la grasa y totalidad de liquidos corporales, reemplazándolos por polimeros quimicos blandos (elastómeros, silicona, epoxy y poliesters, que proorcionan rigidez o flexibilidad) o, plasticos (proceso de plastificación, que dan opacidad o trasparencia), reconstruyendo formas corporales originales, a semejanza de cuando estaban vivos. Su espectáculo “Body Worlds” ha recorrido el mundo, siendo éxito de taquilla en cuanto museo de ciencias o historia natural, se presente. Le vá tan bien que ahora no solo preserva cuerpos humanos, sino tambien elefantes, avestruces, osos, jirafas, cuanto ser vivo se le ponga al frente.

Hagens, que empezó a exhibir sus cuerpos humanos preservados en 1995, no tuvo mucha aceptación inicial, en Europa, empero su trabajo mejoró, cuando tras anclar en Dalian/China (1999), empezó a emplear mano de obra barata, encontró pocas restricciones gubernamentales, adquirió con facilidad cuerpos y órganos humanos y alquiló el know how de estudiantes de medicina locales. El único problema de Hagens, es que ahora le han salido competidores : uno americano, con sede en Atlanta (Compañía, Premier Exhibition, autor de “Bodies : The Exhibition”) y otro chino, liderado por su ex manager, el Dr. Sui Hongjin. Ambos acusan a Hagens de traficar con cuerpos humanos y órganos de prisioneros ejecutados, enfermos mentales y/ o, chinos muertos de causas no naturales. Hagens a su véz los acusa de practicar copycat (plagiarios de todos sus espectáculos) y se defiende asegurando que el obtiene cadáveres donados voluntariamente, mayormente de Europa (cuerpos que la policia entrega a las facultades de medicina). Sea como fuere, el entredicho ha obligado al gobierno chino a emitir una serie de leyes restrictivas, vetando la exportación de cadáveres chinos preservados. Pese a ello, continúan aperturándose decenas de fábricas de plastinación en varias ciudades chinas, lo que sugiere que el negocio es altamente rentable.
Hagens agrega que su sistema de preservación de cadáveres y órganos está permitiendo la democratización de la anatomia, al poner al alcance del lego, cuerpos y órganos, inimaginables a su vista y tacto.

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