Residents in the Greater Houston area can get a real, inside look at the impact of disease on the human body.
The Health Museum is hosting the traveling exhibit Body Worlds RX: Prescriptions for Healthy Living, which contains 75 preserved human specimens displayed in ways to demonstrate the affects of diseases on the body such as diabetes, back pain, skin cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and eating disorders.
The exhibit opened Saturday and runs through April 23. It is the second time a Body Worlds exhibit has come to Houston, the first being in 2006 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. This is the third stop for Body Worlds RX, coming from Birmingham, Ala., and Jacksonville, Fla., previously.
“This traveling exhibit brings Houstonians the closest look at the inner workings of the human body without having to step into a laboratory or other medical environment,” said Dr. Melanie Johnson, president and CEO of The Health Museum. “Every single specimen in this exhibit has been preserved to maintain its integrity, and our hope is that it will inspire members of the community to make healthier choices in their own lives.”
Created by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, inventor of Plastination science and creator of the Body Worlds exhibitions, the exhibit features Plastination, a complex technique that removes the fluids from the body and replaces them with plastics that harden. The human specimens on display at The Health Museum show impressive comparisons and contrasts between healthy bodies and organs and those stricken with disease – from organs to muscles to the nervous system and to skeletal structures.
Dr. Angelina Whalley, curator and creative and conceptual designer for the Body Worlds exhibitions, has created Body Worlds RX to show, “that the body is so fragile and vulnerable, and yet so resilient and forgiving. It has a memory so that what we do to it matters, but it also has a dynamic consciousness so that giving up unhealthy lifestyles or taking up exercise, even small changes, can make a difference.”
Whalley said she hopes that people who see the exhibit and compare healthy and diseased organs side-by-side will be empowered to make healthier lifestyle choices.
“This will give you the power to change the view of yourself,” she said.
“People can see first-hand what they are made of,” she added.
Johnson said patrons have been asking for the exhibit and said she is pleased to finally have it at the Health Museum. She said it is ideal not only for the average person in the community, but also for the thousands of medical personnel and students in the nearby Texas Medical Center. She said the exhibit is “in your face” without being judgmental.
Highlights of Body Worlds RX include:
- Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States. Visitors will learn the functioning of the cardiovascular system; explore its dense and long network of arteries and how it can be affected by common diseases.
- Cancer is the second highest cause of death in the United States. Plastinated organs show cancerous tissues and tumor metastases.
- Locomotive system: Learn how a sedentary lifestyle causes effects that are noticeable in our locomotive system. In the exhibition diseases and ailments such as arthritis, back pain and other bone disorders are explained.
- Dementia: 24 million people worldwide suffer from Dementia, 5 Million of which are Americans. It is the 5th leading cause of death in Americans age 65 and older and will be growing dramatically. By 2050, 135 million people are expected to suffer from Dementia. A multi-media installation shows the effects to better understand this disease.
- Smoking and the lungs: It’s well known smoking is unhealthy, but how many have seen it with their own eyes? One look at the blackened smoker’s lungs alongside vibrant healthy lungs provides a dramatic and convincing appeal to anyone who cannot quit smoking.
- Obesity is widespread and continues to be a leading public health problem in the U.S. Almost a quarter of 2-5-year-olds and a third of adolescents are overweight or obese in the U.S. Obesity is impressively revealed in this exhibition through the juxtaposition of body slices of an obese and lean body.
(Editor Joe Southern contributed to this story)