Centre of Excellence for Plastination and Virtual Reality

The Centre of Excellence for Plastination and Virtual Reality is a joint initiative of the faculty of Veterinary Medicine and UMC Utrecht. We develop models for training in clinical skills and in a wide range of procedures in humans and animals.

Corrosion preparation of a hare
Corrosion casting preparation of the vascular system of a rabbit.

The aim of the centre is to provide realistic anatomical, physiological and pathology models, while reducing the use of animals in research and education. We make a wide range of models for training and education. Our team is able to support you from design to installation of the model. At the veterinary faculty the centre is hosted by the Anatomy & Physiology group and at the UMC by the department of Anatomy. Feel free to contact us. Our online catalogue offers some examples of our work.


Plastination comprises replacing water and fat contained in tissues with reactive polymers, such as silicone rubber, epoxy, or polyester resins. This technique offers a unique way of preserving body parts or the entire body of animals and humans. The result is a realistic and detailed anatomical view of organs, tissues and fine structures. Plastinated specimens last for decades.

Plastinated rat with coloured veins
Plastinated rat with coloured veins.

In recent years, the plastination team has developed a wide range of techniques ranging from hard to soft plastinates. Hard plastinates are rigid models that are particularly useful for studying musculoskeletal anatomy, whereas soft plastinates remain flexible and make ideal training models for clinical procedures. Visit our online catalogue and discover our collection.

Vaginoscopy model of a dog, soft plastinate
Vaginoscopy model of a dog, soft plastinate.

Plastinates for learning medical procedures

Using our soft plastination technique we make ideal training models for clinical procedures, such as intubation, bronchoscopy and vaginoscopy. A nice example of a model for teaching anatomy and physiology is our model of a ruminant’s stomachs, equipped with LED lights indicating motility waves in the rumen. This model helps veterinary students to gain better insight into the physiology of a ruminant’s digestive system. While most of our models contain a variety of tissues, we also provide bare skulls and skeletons with intact ligaments of a variety of animal species. These are ideal for studying bones, joints and teeth.

This video (in Dutch) illustrates how the Dierdonorcodicil has improved veterinary anatomy education in the past years.

Learning without laboratory animals

In 2010, Proefdiervrij (in Dutch) started the project Dierdonorcodicil in collaboration with our Centre for Plastination and Virtual Reality. Pet owners may donate their deceased pet, which we then turn into a long-lasting plastinate that will help many future veterinarians, surgeons and biotechnicians to study anatomy and practice clinical skills.

Plastinated genitals of a fox
Close-up on reproductive system: penis of a fox.

Plastinates in exhibitions

In 2019, the Dutch museum Naturalis in Leiden opened an exhibition about temptation and procreation. Our plastination unit provided a number of animal models of male and female genitals.

Virtual Reality

Holographic model of the rat, D. Salvatori and B. Hierck
Holographic model of the rat, D. Salvatori and B. Hierck.

We develop digital three-dimensional (3D) and holographic models for learning anatomy and offer even more possibilities for practicing clinical and surgical procedures. Using virtual reality technology we are able to transform plastinated samples or CT/MRI scans into functional models, so-called ‘avatars’. Avatars offer an interactive view of an object from all angles. In 2020, we received a USO Grant to create and introduce interactive holographic models of humans and animals in our curricula ('The avatar Zoo').

Virtual 3D model of a human hand
Virtual 3D model of a human hand (by Prof. Bleys, UMCU).


Are you looking for a 3D model to use in your course, workshop, exhibition or other? We are happy to support you in obtaining the most advanced functional and anatomically realistic models.

Please contact us.