Discussion #4037

Fascial Net Plastination

30 min - Discussion


What is the Fascial Net Plastination Project (FNPP) and how does it relate to movement? In this discussion, Elizabeth Larkam talks to Rachelle Clauson, who is the Media and Communications Coordinator for the FNPP, to learn more about this project and how it has evolved since it began two years ago. They discuss how the fascia is part of the integrative whole and how they need to dissect the body in order to show its connectivity. After watching, you will be more informed about the complexities of the myofascial system.

Note: This video includes images of human specimens that have preserved through Plastination. It conveys the opinion of Elizabeth and Rachelle based on their personal intense involvement with the project may not be 100% congruent with the perspective of the Fascia Research Society.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Mar 15, 2020
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Welcome to Pilates Anytime. I'm Elizabeth Larkam, thrilled to be here in discussion with Rachelle Clauson. Rachelle is the media and communications coordinator of the Fascial Net Plastination Project. Participation in this project has transformed the way that I understand teaching. Rachelle, please, would you explain to us just what is the FNPP.

I would be glad to. The Fascial Net Plastination Project is a collaboration of the Fascia Research Society, Somatics Academy, the Plastinarium, and the world-famous Body Worlds. They're coming together to create the world's first 3D human fascial plastinates. And plastination is the act of taking plastic and infusing it into real human cadaver tissue, so that it can be taken outside of the lab and seen by a wider audience in a beautiful and understandable way. Even though I've been a part of it, it's still amazing to me that so many expert organizations that are at the forefront of anatomy education are investing in this what was little known tissue.

How did all these organizations come together? Yeah, that's actually a long story of time, because as the research of fascia has continued to develop throughout the years, as it turns out, quite a few people have approached the Plastinarium seeing if they would be interested in plastinating fascial tissue. Truly, the emphasis in most fascia plastinates, if you've seen a Body Worlds exhibit, has been on the muscular system dominantly, and then also the vascular system or the nervous system, the bony system. But the fascia is typically fully removed, so people don't really have a good concept in their mind, generally speaking, of what the fascial system looks like or where it lives or how it connects to the other structures. So over the years, about 10 years actually, people have been approaching the Plastinarium and nothing's ever really connected up until recently.

So in the end, or was it around, I think, 2017 that Dr. Robert Schleip approached again and said, "Would you be interested in doing this?" Of course fascia research has progressed so far in the past 10 years that they were, and so magic happened (chuckles). And they finally got a plan together to actually bring fascia into a project for the Plastinarium. Since you've used the word plastination and plastinates a few times now, despite the fact that it's a very complex and lengthy chemical process, could you touch on the highlights of what creates a plastinate? I'd be happy to. So the beginning of the process is similar to if you were doing a dissection class.

So you start with preserved tissue. And so that's preserved with formaldehyde like it would be in a normal dissection class. And then dissection. So dissection can take a long time because these are so detailed. It can take up to six months to do a full body cadaver dissecting it into the final form as to what they want to show or highlight.

In our case, the fascial system. After that, it goes through a series of baths, high and low temperature acetone baths for defatting and dehydration and then the plastic infusion, where the acetone is replaced with plastic, and it's fully infused to the cellular level. That takes six months. And then you have another six months process of positioning. And that's where the positioners are meticulously with pins and all kinds of different props and pulleys positioning this form into its final position.

And so many of these are dissected down to the level where they're showing nerves and veins and arteries. All of those have to be pinned into place exactly where they go. After that, it's fully cured through gas curing and that makes it harder. So it's more like a harder rubber. And that's how we can then position and see them without them collapsing or falling apart.

You know, I had never heard it explained so simply there this complex process. And it makes me realize that this patented process, this intellectual property of the Plastinarium, which has been used to create the Body Worlds exhibits that orbit our globe educating people about anatomy, that now for the first time, these processes are being applied to the fascia system. That's right, that's right. And Gunther von Hagens actually developed this method in the '70s, so it's not new, which was a surprise to me. Yes. But the full body

plastinates were never really created until the 1990s, which is when Body Worlds started to tour and when we saw all of those. His inspiration actually came from seeing a kidney on a block of plastic, and saying, "It's backwards, "it should be the other way around. "The plastic should be in the kidney." And he went right to work, and sure enough he started to develop the method we use today. So for our project, we started with a proof of concept because of the fact that fascia hadn't been plastinated in isolation and a lot of fascia has a heavy fat content. So they weren't sure if that was going to be problematic for how the body would cure once we did a full body.

So we did 10 smaller specimens that were both the superficial fascia as well as deep fascial structures. And you and I met there to do this dissection. That was January of 2018. Yes. We had a team of about 14 people that volunteered to come together and create these specimens and then send them through the plastination process.

Now, in addition to Gunther von Hagen, who are the principals and the advisors? Because there may be some overlap between these people involved in the project and Pilates Anytime experts. I think there are (chuckles). Now what's amazing to me is that there's an in addition to these expert advisors and principles of the project coming together in an interdisciplinary, interorganizational collaboration. There also an international cadre of volunteers, experts in their individual fields who choose to use their own resources to travel to Guben, Germany to spend a week or more at a time involved in this project.

Now some of these international volunteers, some, say for example, are experts in the fascia treatment for horses, for large animals. Others are professors at schools of osteopathy. Still others are leaders in their home community as massage therapists. Right. We have movement educators.

We have experts in anatomical dissection. It's a whole range of people. Could you talk about how it is to be the communications coordinator of this wild group? (Rachelle laughs) Well, the role has been mostly just getting information out to people to make sure that we're all getting in the place, the right place at the right time. But what a pleasure it's been to be working with people from all over the world on this and to see how the passion for teaching about fascia, learning more about fascia is an international effort.

It is not local. We had people that came from Brazil, and Singapore, and Finland, and Canada, and the US all came together. It was amazing actually how far people travel in order to participate in this. Yes, yes. Yeah.

It's been a pleasure. It's a rare opportunity to be in a dissection lab with fascia dissection leaders, Carla Stecco for example, and to observe their techniques and to see what has never been seen before even in an anatomy dissection lab. It's new information. Yeah, I think what's really unique about this project is that truly the delicacy of fascia and, is a hard thing to preserve, right? It's a hard thing to be able to show.

And not everyone is really down for going into a dissection lab. Not everyone's down for even seeing pictures of cadaver tissue. It is, it can be intense. And I don't know that it's necessary exactly to see and to be able to understand the anatomy of fascia, so we're reliant on images of drawings or of computer-generated images. And at this point in time, they're mostly devoid of fascia, because they aren't really recording that layer very well.

So plastination is such a unique way to be able to take the actual tissue and preserve it so that it is, it loses some of the same quality. It's not as supple obviously. We've hardened it with plastic. It's not quite as clear in many cases. It becomes a little bit more opaque, but it's very approachable.

And that's the thing about Body Worlds is that they are remarkable at helping us to not see dead bodies in front of us, that we're seeing living bodies. And I feel the plastination process takes tissue that's deceased and makes it alive again. It helps us to see what, imagining what we would look like under the skin in motion. And it does a beautiful job at that. A beautiful job. Yes.


Fascinating information and gorgeous images presented by Rachelle Clauson. Media & Communications Coordinator for the Fascial Net Platination Project show fascia in a new light.  Thank you Rachelle for bringing your expertise to Pilates Anytime. Congratulations on your brilliant debut on this platform!
2 people like this.
This was absolutely fascinating!! Thank you!
Sadly I cannot open any of the above references on my computer!  Can this information be available on any other platform?  Thank you
2 people like this.
That was so interesting! Thank you!
2 people like this.
Thank you both for introducing us to this fascinating work!  
Thank you Sharon. I think Pilates Anytime will post more of our references next week.
Mary, the Pilates Anytime wizards will answer you about downloading references. One of the references is a list of Pilates Anytime workshops taught by members of the FNPP advisory board. You can search this website by instructor: 1. Robert Schleip, 2. Gil Hedley, 3. Tom Myers with Larkam. The last slide of the discussion includes a website with references. Thank you very much for your interest in further study.
2 people like this.
Knowing I run the risk of over simplifying here 😊 — but did I hear Rachelle say something to the effect that “we’re” beginning to discover a neurological connection with fascia? I mean, I guess everything in the body has some neurology involved, but that’s pretty mind-blowing! (Unintentional pun. 😁) Or did I confuse something?
Mbrown, the voices you hear may not be in your head (my attempt at humor). I will search for a reference from a paper by Carla Stecco🤓
Mary ~ I have emailed you this attachment so that you can access them more easily. So glad that you enjoyed this discussion!
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