In The Field

Not until you hold it in your hands

horse uterus for web.jpg Some things make reproductive biology really come alive. Take today: someone handed me a horse vagina while I was walking through this morning’s poster session at the Society for the Study of Reproduction meeting in Kona HI. To be precise, it was the vagina, cervix, uterus, ovaries, and part of the bladder of a mare from a Spanish slaughterhouse. Rafael Latorre was presenting a project underway for at least sixteen years at the University of Murcia, Spain to build anatomy education resources using plastination. You might recognize the process as that popularized by Body World exhibits. Developed by Gunter von Hagens, it involves dehydrating tissue samples and replacing the fluids with various polymers to retain a lifelike look and preserve it for years to come. The group at Murcia has prepared as many as 600 specimens according to Latorre. The massive equine reproductive tract in my hands was made with modifications to the process to give it a rubbery, malleable feel, and windows were cut out so that the insides could be viewed in all their glory. “Did they give you any problems with this thing in your luggage?” asked Kenneth Campbell from University of Massachuestts-Boston. “No,” replied Latorre. He had a gaggle of conference-goers asking questions, though.

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