Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences MSc Graduate Projects

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    Assessing Soft-Embalmed Cadavers as a Biological Hazard
    (2020-12) Richards, Kevin R.
    At Queen's University Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, as is the case at many Canadian institutions, three primary methods are used to generate three distinct cadaver types for human anatomical education: fresh/frozen, traditional formalin hard-embalmed, and phenol-based soft-embalmed. Each of these techniques has its own merits and restrictions, with phenol-based soft-embalming combining the longevity seen in traditional embalming with the life-like quality characteristic of fresh/frozen tissue. Current environmental health and safety (EHS) restrictions place traditional formalin embalmed cadavers in Containment Level 1 (CL1) laboratories, with both fresh/frozen and phenol-based soft-embalmed cadavers in Containment Level 2 (CL2) laboratories. However, there is a gap in the current literature dictating whether or not phenol-based soft-embalmed cadavers do in fact belong in CL2 laboratories. In this hypothesis-driven report, it was hypothesised that soft-embalmed cadavers are a higher risk biosafety hazard than formalin-embalmed cadavers, thus warranted for designation to CL2 laboratories. After an in-depth analysis of the present literature surrounding the use and properties of phenol-based soft-embalmed cadavers in comparison to traditional formalin hard-embalmed cadavers, it was found that soft-embalmed cadavers do become colonized more readily by micro-organisms, aligning with our hypothesis. To definitively test the hypothesis, a proposed experiment has been suggested and outlined. In the proposed experiment, a variety of indicator species as well as CL2 designated pathogens would be tested for at regular intervals throughout the cadavers’ lifespans.