Exhibition shows organs devastated by cancers
By Choi Yeong-Jin Choi
A pathology specimen is needed to show the essence of surgical pathology, a study that directly looks at the nature of diseases in patients. It is a tissue specimen which shows various diseases in organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and bones.
Medical science has gone through rapid advances and diseases that once needed surgery can be treated with excisions or non-surgical means. This means that opportunities to see actual specimens of diseases are gradually reduced in proportion to the development of modern science.
Human Pathology Exhibition 2012 organized by the Department of Pathology at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, serves as a unique opportunity to see how cancer affects different organs.
The 200 organs on exhibit were preserved by synthetic resin technology; they were collected for education purpose after surgery or autopsy at St. Mary’s Hospital. They represent various cancers that affect people around the world. Human pathology specimens have been used in the field of medical education, but they are rarely accessible to the general public. Thus, this show will allow people to encounter the true face of often lethal diseases and be reminded of the importance of prevention.
There were several exhibitions of normal body specimens, but the exhibition of human disease specimens was held for the first time in Korea in Human Pathology Exhibition 2009. This year’s event is the second.
Pathology is a compound Greek word from pathos (suffering) and logos (study) and looks into diseases, damage to cells, tissues and organs. Pathology is the basic study related to pathogenesis and progression of a disease and started in modern times.
At present, the department of hospital pathology examines tissues and organs which have become diseased by gross examination after surgery or autopsy and uses microscopic methods by various staining to make a final diagnosis for the patient.
Body tissues decompose rapidly at room temperatures, so efforts to preserve tissues permanently started in modern times and led to various methods. Among them, storing tissues in 10 percent formalin liquid is the most common.
However, with the development of scientific technology, methods of preserve tissue permanently just as in a plastic material was designed, by drawing out water from tissues and replacing it with synthetic resins. Plastination is a technology designed by Gunther von Hagens in 1977 and preserves specimen by replacing liquid in body organs with a synthetic resin polymer. The resin doesn’t have any scent and does not damage the tissues, unlike the formalin liquid approach.
The exhibition will be held in Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays from Jul. 16 to Aug. 11, 2012. Admission is free, but children lower than elementary school age must be accompanied by a guardian. Please contact (02) 2258-1589 to set up group visits.
The writer is a professor at the Department of Hospital Pathology, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital.