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Friday 14 October 2022 9:11am

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The University of Otago’s Dr Charlotte King shares why research in the field of Anatomy is important ahead of World Anatomy Day.

This Saturday, 15 October, the Department of Anatomy will be hosting a free and open-to-the-public celebration where attendees can explore the W.D. Trotter Anatomy Museum, get involved in interactive activities and engage with students and staff about the work they are doing in the field of anatomy.

Dr King says the activities are an important way to mark the significance of anatomy research.

The event begins at 1pm and goes through to 5pm, with focused short talks from 2:30pm to 4pm.

“World Anatomy Day was conceived to mark the anniversary of the death of Andreas Vesalius, a 16th century Belgian physician, who is regarded as the founder of human anatomy. Vesalius published the first-ever book on anatomy, the Seven Books on the Fabric of the Human Body or Fabrica for short,” Dr King says.

“It was quite accurate for its time and, since then, anatomy research has come a long way, with researchers at the front lines of understanding human health.”

Dr King believes anatomy research is vital and needs to be continually supported because the field not only investigates how human biology has developed to face past challenges, but also how clinical solutions might be developed to address current and future diseases.

Dr King herself has always been fascinated by archaeology and what this kind of research can reveal about a person’s life.

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“That fascination led me to the University of Otago as an undergraduate because it’s one of the only places in the country that teaches biological anthropology and forensics at an undergraduate level.”

“I went to the UK to complete my PhD and learnt a great deal from the labs there, but I was lured back to Otago as a postdoctoral fellow because of the world-leading researchers that are available right here.

“Their work helps us understand how humans have changed and adapted to environmental and social pressures over millennia and I consider myself very lucky to be a part of that team.”

Dr King’s research focuses on how the chemical makeup of a person’s body tissues, such as their bones, teeth, hair and even fingernails, can be used to reconstruct their life after death.

She measures the ratios of different isotopes in the body tissue to figure out where people came from, what they were eating, if they were healthy, and whether they had been exposed to toxins amongst many other things.

“Though I might appear biased as an anatomy researcher myself, I truly believe that this work is valuable,” Dr King says.

“Anatomy research supports forensic investigations, looks at the circumstances around a person’s death, identifies archaeological remains and involves repatriation work, where human remains are returned to descendants.

“There is no doubt in my mind that these are meaningful endeavours which I am proud to be part of and excited to celebrate this World Anatomy Day.”

- Kōrero by the School of Biomedical Sciences Communications Adviser, Kelsey Schutte.

World Anatomy Day Event Details

Department of Anatomy: Dr Charlotte King

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