April 2016 | Issue 23
An Imperial delivery


By Miss Rachael Waddington
Manager, Human Anatomy Unit
& Dr Mike Barrett
Head of Learning Resources, School of Medicine


On 7 March, LKCMedicine received a shipment of a more unusual kind. Carefully wrapped in protective film, some 180 human anatomical specimens arrived in Singapore all the way from London. The specimens are a donation from Imperial College London’s Pathology Museum.

The Museum, which is curated by the Human Anatomy Unit, supports medical education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and boasts a collection of tissue specimens that reaches well into the thousands. With display space for only around 2,500 pathological specimens, many more remain hidden in storage.

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The specimens on display at the Museum (Courtesy of Andy Pritchard, Learning Resources, School of Medicine)

That’s why, early in the collaboration period, the LKCMedicine anatomy curriculum leads from London and Singapore visited the Museum at the Charing Cross campus to select specimens that would augment both the anatomy and, later, the pathology teaching at LKCMedicine. An initial selection of around 180 specimens was made, although there are many more that could have been included.

The specimens are surgical resections and post-mortem specimens from the collections of the constituent medical schools that now form Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine. Being a historical collection from many institutions, they are in a variety of display containers (pots): glass and plastic, square and cylindrical, each preserved in conservation fluid. All specimens have a full description of the pathology and are classified using standard international tissue and disease nomenclature. For some, histological material is also provided.

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Carefully wrapped, the pots are shipped to Singapore (Courtesy of Andy Pritchard, Learning Resources, School of Medicine), where Darren Lim unpacks the first of the pots on 7 Mar (right)

The decision was taken to delay sending the pots until the new building at the Novena campus was near completion. With the building now nearly complete, the team at the Human Anatomy Unit set to work. Removal of the conservation fluid prior to transport would have reduced transport costs, but it could have resulted in damage to delicate specimens, thus the decision was made to transport the pots intact. Protective foam-lined crates were provided by the couriers and each pot was plastic film wrapped and bagged beforehand. We also had to get the Singapore National Environment Agency's approval to import the specimens. After reviewing the methods of preservation of the specimens and the nature of their containment, the Agency found that they presented no health risk and so permitted the importation. As a confidence test, two specimens were airfreighted to Singapore last December to test out processes, and they arrived intact!

It has been a big undertaking cataloguing and packing the specimens, but with the great support of the Human Anatomy Unit, we waved the specimens off at the beginning of March. LKCMedicine Laboratory Assistant Manager Darren Lim received them in Singapore and is now organising for them to be re-potted into brand new display cases ready to be put on view.

We hope that this collection proves to be as beneficial to the students at LKCMedicine as our Museum collection is to the students in London. And perhaps there will be interest in more specimens at a later date.

An imperial delivery 4.jpgAn imperial delivery 6.jpgL-R: Carefully wrapped, the pots are shipped to Singapore (Courtesy of Andy Pritchard, Learning Resources, School of Medicine), where Darren Lim unpacks the first of the pots on 7 Mar

*This article was updated on 26 April 2016 to correctly report that it was the National Environment Agency not the Ministry of Health that had to grant approval to import the specimens.