Beginning in late 2017, FNPP determined the most realistic steps required to achieve the group’s ultimate goal – creating wholebody plastinates to show the human fascial net in its entirety. The team decided to start with smaller prosections of superficial and deep fascia, put them through the process of plastination, and gauge the results. Taking smaller steps at this early stage would allow the necessary learning curve to prepare for larger projects down the road. The international call went out for contributors to join the team for the first phase of this ambitious endeavor, and a zealous team quickly formed for a five-day gathering in Germany.
The team first gathered in Germany’s Plastinarium Exhibition Hall in January 2018. Schleip told the group, “You are all like brave explorers in search of the North Pole who willingly set out on a journey with no guarantees of success or survival!” Indeed, the success of the FNPP’s first project was a big unknown, just as easily ending in failure as in success. Harder still, was that given the lengthy plastination process, it would be months before any results would be known to the team.
These uncertainties arose from the process itself. Once dissected, the fascia specimens spend almost six months soaking in several low- and high-temperature acetone baths, followed by a vacuum-sealed bath of liquid silicone rubber. It is in this latter bath that the acetone is extracted and gradually replaced with the liquid plastic. After they are fully infused, the specimens must be positioned into a final, recognizable shape. They are then subjected to a gascuring process to harden them and produce the final silicone, rubber-infused plastinates.
Once the initial dissection work was complete and the first curing process began, the team headed home, returning to Guben in June to see the results. By then, the January specimens had finished their initial stages of plastination and were now ready for positioning.
Now that they were fully saturated with liquid silicone, the pieces of plastinated fascia were sticky and gooey, though they did seem to drain excess liquid and perhaps even started to stretch a bit closer to their original size and volume as the team worked with them. Team members had to invent moulds to position the plastinated specimens into their final shape. This took some creativity, as they used tubes, metal rods, plastic foils, cloth, pins, and even a plastic bottle for recreating an elbow. The irony of this was not lost on the team. The process they had gone through in January was being reversed and they were now adding elements (instead of taking tissue away), to give the fascia the necessary support for the gas-curing phase.
What happens next? The plastinated fascial specimens are undergoing the final gas-curing process in order to harden them. Then they will be placed in a wellventilated space and aired for at least a week to be safe for handling. After that, they will be prepped for their big debut at the Fascia Research Congress. Then begins the most ambitious part of the project as the Plastinarium crew embarks on a three-year project to create the world’s first 3D, full-body human fascial net plastinates.
Three different plastinates are planned.
- The Superficial Fascia—the Wedding Dress
The aim of this plastinate is to demonstrate the entire superficial fascia (or subcutaneous connective tissue) all in one piece. This is the “layer” (remember the fascia is one continuous tissue) that gives us our shape and curves. The superficial fascia is often largely ignored in terms of its importance, only acknowledged in weight-loss ads and rarely, if ever, discussed for its remarkable functions of structure, cushion, insulation, energy storage, and endocrine and immune support. This project will open a doorway to these important conversations.
- The Deep Fascia—the Diving Suit
This project will include the fascia profunda layer that lies underneath the superficial fascia (or subcutaneous connective tissues) and envelops most of the body as a dense, fibrous connective tissue coating. While in some areas—such as the plantar fascia or the iliotibial band—it expresses considerable sturdiness, it is less densely developed in others.
- The Deeper Structures Supporting the Skeleton—the Core Body
The project for these deepest structures may include the dura mater and meninges that support the brain and spinal cord, and the fascia of the mediastinum, pericardium, diaphragm, and pelvic floor. It also may include a representation of the muscular compartments (e.g., in the lower leg) that are created by fascial septae between major muscle groups.
The outcome of these ambitious plans will likely be partly guided by the discovery of what is possible as the project evolves.
Says Schleip: “This is a dream coming true: exposing the interconnectedness and beauty of the human fascial net in the context of a Body Worlds exhibition so that thousands of visitors can learn of this wonderful, silky web underneath their own skin. The spirit of everyone involved in this project is phenomenal. What an exciting adventure to be a part of!”