Heart of Glass: The Art of Medical Models
Gary Farlow can make art out of arteries. He and his team of 10 at Farlow’s Scientific Glassblowing are able to transform the body’s vasculature—and nearly all of its other parts—into an ornate borosilicate glass sculpture, from the heart’s ventricles to the brain’s circle of Willis. “We do almost every part of the body,” Farlow says. “It can take a pretty artistic mind to make some of these things.” With the help of cardiologists, the team creates custom see-through systems for science and medical training. Their anatomically correct models can be designed to simulate blood flow, teach placement of catheters and angioplasty devices, or simply test or demo new surgical gizmos. Individual arteries, veins, and capillaries are shaped and fused together, one at a time. Ground-glass joints are added at the exposed ends so a head, say, can be connected to the carotid arteries should customers want to expand their model. A full-body setup could cost $25,000, so don’t get any bright ideas about using one as a brandy decanter.
these would look absolutely stunning in my foyer*
*author’s note: i do not have a foyer.
“Is that her femoral artery?”
I met my lover late one night,
Stethoscope on my chest, BP cuff on my right,
And as he held my hand, on his resident’s command,
He summoned up all his might -
“I’m a doctor-in-training”, he said,
Resting his body against my bed
“And is it too soon to make you swoon?
Because I know we’ve just met -
But you make my heart thump so hard
That cardiac arrest is on the cards,
Fast my blood flows for my soul knows
That true love has caught me off-guard.”
What was there to say but yes?
To a lack of experience he had confessed,
Yet I was fine with the nerdy pick up lines
Because for me adoration he had professed -
But he’s rare with actual compliments
Instead choosing to thank my ‘rents
For their chromosomes, their centrosomes
…I think good will was meant?
And even when he finds the right words
It sounds completely absurd
To hear “My dear, your telomeres
They have never faltered!”
All my girlfriends think I’m single
Because I never bring him out to mingle -
He works long hours, rarely showers,
And in small talk, the only lingual
Skills he has pertain to nerves of the tongue,
And if there’s pathology he has the lungs
To speak and speak for a more than a week,
As if other meddies he were among!
Surgery sets his heart on fire
More than my wanton desire,
Causing a fuss with his bloodlust
Whenever I want my body admired,
So when he’s making love to me,
I know he’s thinking of anatomy
Not what goes where, or how he fares,
But is that her femoral artery?
“Found it!” he cries instead of my name,
As if our activity is not a game
Of take-a-peek but hide-and-seek
Where physiology is the aim!
Still I know he’ll never cheat
Because he never has the time to meet
Another girl to take for a whirl,
And besides, I know I have them beat
With my ample mitochondria, cranial hypertrophy,
A million neurotransmitters and long phalanges -
Subcutaneous tissue, it’s never an issue;
So I’ll let him study our mutual biochemistry
Because he gives me atrial fibrillation,
Ventricular contractions and palpitations,
Every single date my muscles fasciculate,
Forever he’ll be my doctor, and I, his patient.
[An old poem I had lying around. It never fails to amuse me.]
I wonder if the liver macoron tastes like bile… om nom nom
Wax anatomical models such as this were for teaching purposes. They were created by skilled craftsman and had to be realistic. This example was almost certainly modelled on a dead body because the word ‘autopsy’ features on the label. This example shows the thorax, or chest area, covered in pus-filled boils caused by the skin disease ecthyma luridum. This causes inflammation and spots to form on the skin. During the 1830s, physicians believed it was associated with people with ‘broken constitutions’ and was treatable with warm sulphurous baths. It is now easily treated with medicated creams. Joseph Towne was a wax modeller for Guy’s Hospital, London for over 50 years, He completed several hundred models. In 1826, aged just 18 years-old he submitted his first model to the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded a silver medal. He won a gold medal from the same institution in 1827. Many of his models were based on direct observation of the human body via autopsy specimens. They are still useful teaching resources.
Art by Fritz Kahn
Awesome! Reminds me a little of The Magic SchoolBus when they take a trip inside Ralphie’s body to learn about the immune system :)
Today in gross lab we cut through the ribs and sternum to access the thoracic cavity and to get the lungs; the next couple of labs we will be dealing with the heart and associated structures.
That seems so textbook when I write it. Contained in that sentence are many strange feelings, the whole lab was almost a blur.
We ‘unwrapped’ what had been dissected in the previous lab: the skin, the huge gingko-leaf-like pectoralis major muscle and the little triangle-shaped pectoralis minor muscle, the weirdly hand-like digitations of the thin and silvery serratus anterior; muscles are different from organs. We waited with mounting anticipation for our table’s turn with the bone saw (supervised, of course).
And then it got there, yellow snaking extension cord, she handed it to me, our eyes met and she knew what I felt. The bone saw looked kind of like a kitchen utensil. Heavy in my hands, I was scared to cut the lung while cutting through the ribs- weirdly gratifying when they gave and I knew I had cut all the way through. Bone chips and slivers on grey abdominal skin. I passed it to the person on my right. “Here, you should do this, you’re interested in surgery, right?” He would make a great surgeon.
Then we pulled off the square/butterfly shape of sternum and ribs, I held it steady as my table-mates cleared away fascia to clearly see the transversus thoracis muscles. It felt like a wounded bird in my hands for some reason, delicate.
We saw the lungs, spongy purple with black tiger stripes from (what I suppose) to be years of smoking. The differences between the left and right lung, the fat covering the heart between them. I waited nervously, what if they moved.
The lungs were removed with a scalpel. Handed to me, a strange birth. They were heavy in my hands, but lighter than I expected. Breath of life once filled them, once propelled oxygen into tissues and cells, once removed carbon dioxide. Give and take with the trees- they need our respiratory waste, we need their respiratory waste.
How long could he hold his breath? What about holding the note of a song, driving in the summer with the windows down and his arm around his beloved?
Look at other lungs. One had cancer, many were tiny, some were quite pink, others were blacker than ours. All of them lifebreath-givers. In my hands.
Put the lungs back in the chest, they settle down into the base of the thoracic cage now that they are free of their connections to the heart and pleura. Good night, sweet first years, you’re welcome. Put the rib and sternum section back, put the muscles and skin back. Wrapping up a present. Spritz with moisture spray, cheesecloth, plastic. Good night, sweet first years, you’re welcome. Close up the table. Wipe it down, no rude fingerprint traces here. Spotless shining stainless steel knowledge casket.
I floated home, my head other places. Lungs behind the wheel of every car around me. Lungs inside of me. As I laid down for a quick nap I inhaled deeply. Gleeful air rushing down into the tiniest alveoli. Did my lungs fill up the recesses around them? Exhale.
As I fell asleep I could feel my lungs. In my chest. Maybe someday far in the future someone will hold them in their hands- I can’t hold my breath for very long.
Anatomical Neon: Blown Glass Human Organs Containing Neon Lights by Jessica Lloyd-Jones
This poster reminds me of that childhood science, the one that gave us simple explanations about how our body worked, the one that spoke of little people inside us that keep the lights on and the body working. It is that same childhood science that spawned stories like how eating the seeds of watermelons would cause them to grow in your stomach. It was a more wondrous time of imagination and fascination.
Glowing Brain with Floating Colours from X-Ray Visions: Drawings and Prints from an Artist Residency at the NYU School of Medicine by Laura Ferguson.
The art here is inspired by the artist’s own experiences with a lifetime of x-rays. Feeling disconnected with those radiographs of herself, that they “belonged more to [her] doctors than [herself],” she set about creating these pieces. The piece is meant to bridge a connection with our inner spaces.
Riding a motorcycle can be exhilarating but also dangerous. Your body is more exposed and the stakes are higher. With that in mind, Death Spray Custom has created this overall to reflect the conflict between protection of the body versus the experience.
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Your girl is back from Step 1!!!
Damn, it’s been awhile. Missed you all very, very much :)
And true to form, I drank, I ate, I had a ball with...
wayfaringmd replied to your post: Your girl is back from Step 1!!!
Woo! Isn’t it a relief to be done?! I’m sure you did great!