Unique insight into how the BodyWorks

DISEASED livers, a giant hamster wheel and a virtual autopsy table which allows you to investigate dead bodies are all coming to Glasgow as part of a £2million exhibition about health and the human body.

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Jenny Templeman, left, and Sarah Gibb, hold a human heart and a human brain, ahead of the exhibition
Jenny Templeman, left, and Sarah Gibb, hold a human heart and a human brain, ahead of the exhibition

BodyWorks is Glasgow Science Centre's most ambitious project to date. ANN FOTHERINGHAM got to look behind the scenes before the grand opening on March 28

IT IS a normal day at the office for Dr Sarah Gibb and Jenny Templeman, as they chat cheerfully about parasitic worms and lung cancer over lunch.

The women, part of Glasgow Science Centre's 'Team BodyWorks' are unfazed by most of what they have seen in preparation for the venue's most ambitious exhibition yet.

They are discussing, among other things, the cirrhotic liver and diseased heart which float ominously in fluid-filled glass blocks in front of them.

"It's the first time human tissue will be on display outside a university setting," explains science and interpretation officer Sarah.

"It won't look quite like this, though, as human organs in fluid doesn't look particularly nice.

"They will be plastinated – a process which involves impregnating them with silicon."

Professor Sue Black, world-renowned forensic anthropologist, is advising on the plastination process in something of a coup for the centre.

She is one of around 190 academic and industry experts helping bring BodyWorks to life.

Professor Terry Gourlay from Strathclyde University is building an artificial heart, Paul Rea from the Museum of Human Anatomy at Glasgow University is loaning the exhibition three human specimens and the Digital Learning Foundation is helping the centre develop a giant 3D brain exhibit.

"The virtual autopsy table is a Scottish first too," says Sarah.

SHE continues: "There is only one other in the UK, and that's at the British Museum in London.

"It's a fascinating resource – the touch screen allows you to unzip the body bag, then 'peel back' the skin, then the muscles and down to the bones.

"Each body is a real person and at each point in the process you can learn more about what happened to them. It will also include scans of a living person, so you can see what a healthy body looks like."

Careful consideration has been given to the sensitive nature of some of the exhibits, as project manager Jenny explains.

She adds: "BodyWorks is a huge, exciting exhibition like nothing I have ever seen before.

"It's about exploring the science which underpins health and wellbeing so, for example, you can time yourself on a sprint track, 'age your face' to see the effects of smoking and drinking as you get older, and carry out multi-tasking activities to see how your brain works.

"But we have taken great care to site the more sensitive items away from the livelier exhibits. We haven't avoided any subject, as health is such a massive topic."

Different sections will cover everything from the digestive system and the foods you eat, to DNA and cell biology, how bones and muscles work and reproduction and ageing.

"We are not preaching to people," explains Sarah.

"It's not about saying 'alcohol is bad for you so don't drink it', for example, it's about presenting the science in a clear, factual way.

"But if BodyWorks makes people think about their health, and has a positive impact in any way, then that's fantastic."

For Jenny, BodyWorks has already had an impact.

"I smoked 20 a day when I was at university and then, around two years ago, I started working on this exhibition," explains the 31-year-old, who is from Finnieston.

"One of the exhibits shows you, in fairly graphic detail, what smoking can do to every part of your body – so, for example, you see the eyeballs popping out to show glaucoma, the legs are amputated because of gangrene, you see the effects of breast cancer."

SHE pauses. "I saw it, and stopped smoking then and there.

"I'd had abnormal cervical cells removed after a routine test and when I told the doctor I'd decided to quit, he said I couldn't have chosen a better moment."

l BodyWorks opens at Glasgow Science Centre on March 28.

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