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Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS Exhibitions Welcome Specimens From World's First Living Body Donor for Plastination

LOS ANGELES, June 10 /PRNewswire/ -- For 35 year old Mark Rohner of London, Ohio, the amputation of his right leg due to bone cancer reads like the plot point in a medical drama. During the operation in 2006, the saw the chief surgeon was using to detach Rohner's limb from his knee, broke while cutting into the bone. Like in the best medical dramas, the hospital had to send a persuasive emissary to a neighboring hospital for a replacement saw to complete the job.


Now fitted with a prosthetic leg, Rohner, a soft-spoken pathology technician has become a celebrity in an iconic world-renowned series of anatomical exhibitions. He is the first living body donor in Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS, the public anatomical exhibitions of donor bodies that have been touring the United States since 2004.

As a medical professional who routinely dissects amputated limbs and excises tumors and other pathologies for analysis, Rohner was familiar with the disposal of surgically removed limbs. "They are either given back to individuals for burial, cremation, or other rituals, or disposed as medical waste," said Rohner. "After I came to terms with the prospect of losing my leg, I decided that I'd rather make it useful for medical scholarship than have it disposed of, as medical waste." Rohner's cancer is a rare disease for a man of his age and ethnicity and he wanted his condition to be an educational resource for future doctors. Familiar with the work of anatomist, Dr. Gunther von Hagens, Rohner contacted the North American Body Donation Program of the Heidelberg-based Institute for Plastination, the organizers of Gunther von Hagens BODY WORLDS exhibitions.

After the amputation, Rohner's severed limb was flown to the Institute for Plastination's laboratory in Germany. There, Dr. von Hagens found that the tumors had already been excised from the limb during surgery. "We were quite surprised that his rare disease, bone abnormality, and bone cancer were not evident in the limb. However I felt a deep obligation to this donor who had fought his disease so bravely. I was determined to turn the amputated limb into an anatomical treasure that could be used to teach future generations of doctors." The limb was transformed into multiple sheet plastinates thin as wafers using Dr. von Hagens' scientific invention of plastination.

Rohner's plastinates, numbering 75, will be distributed to medical schools around the world, as well as presented with a multimedia narrative of his incredible story in upcoming BODY WORLDS exhibitions. With his donation, Rohner joins more than 200 donors already in the exhibitions who gave their informed and legal consent to be on display in BODY WORLDS for the scientific education of future generations. "However, Mr. Rohner is a historic figure because he is the only living donor in the BODY WORLDS exhibitions. His story and his commitment to scientific education is remarkable," said Dr. von Hagens.

Seen by more than 25 million visitors in 45 cities around the world, Gunther von Hagens BODY WORLDS are the only anatomical exhibitions with an established body donation program, and the only anatomical exhibitions that use donated bodies. With the exception of fetuses from historical anatomical collections pre-dating 1920, and some small organs from hospital anatomy and pathology programs -- all of the specimens in BODY WORLDS (more than 180 out of 200 specimens per exhibit), originate from the Institute for Plastination's Body Donation Program, established in Heidelberg in 1982 and managed by the Institute for Plastination since 1993. As of June 2008, the Institute for Plastination's Body Donation roster includes 8626 living donors from around the world (among them, 7366 Germans and 728 Americans) and 580 deceased donors (among them, 569 Germans and 11 Americans).

For more information please contact Gail Vida Hamburg at (at) or Georgina Gomez at g.gomez(at)

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