Department of Anatomy

The discipline of anatomy organises basic education in macroscopic human anatomy, microscopic human anatomy, or histology, and cell biology for students of medicine and dentistry, as well as students in the Master’s Degree Programme in Translational Medicine in their first and second year of studies.

The Department of Anatomy conducts basic research in neurobiology and cell biology (research areas include membrane biology, as well as the mechanisms of the development of the nervous system and neurotransmission). In addition, we are developing and utilising genetically modified cellular and animal models and various imaging methods. The Department organises postgraduate research education for doctoral students and post-doctoral education for researchers who have completed their doctoral degree. The Department houses the Biomedicum Imaging Unit BIU.


The Department is responsible for organising two courses in medicine and dentistry: Healthy and Diseased Tissue, as well as Musculoskeletal System. The Department organises teaching in anatomy and histology also in the following courses: Structure and Function of the Cell, Nervous System, Respiratory Organs, Digestive System and Nourishment, and Endocrinology and Genitals. In addition, the Department organises optional courses on various subjects such as clinical anatomy and research skills.

Teaching in anatomy is problem based. Students familiarise themselves with anatomy also with the help of dissection, prosection, surface anatomy, ultrasound anatomy, clinical-theoretical seminars and virtual microscopy.

Please find out about project opportunities directly from the research groups.


Research Groups

Strategy of the Department of Anatomy

We are committed to performing cutting edge discovery and translational science and educating the next generation of clinicians through the latest developments in research-led teaching. Our diverse and inclusive community strives to enrich and influence the lives of patients and society in Finland and beyond.

Our active and adaptive academic community is united by a common goal to pursue excellence in biomedical research and teaching. Our Department is a central hub that stimulates scientific exchange, with our research and teaching contributing to numerous strategic research initiatives in Helsinki and further afield. The Department is also strengthened by diversity, in both the range of activities and research that we perform and our people from all over the world which make this possible. We strive to perform our work in an open-minded society that positively contributes to a brighter future.

Our goal is to foster an environment conducive to excellent research and the exchange of scientific ideas that have the potential to transform medicine. Importantly, the Department of Anatomy plays a critical role in the Faculty of Medicine by developing future practitioners through top-level teaching and specialist instruction. We emphasize the significance of basic sciences in the medical curriculum, as literacy in this will become all more important in the future with developing technologies.  Initiatives in our department influence national and international teaching strategies in modern medicine and our responsiveness enables us to tackle emergent challenges in a changing world. This includes effectively communicating our science and its relevance to wider society, to promote the public understanding of science and engage all sectors of society. The Department actively supports the translation of ongoing research activities into innovations and commercial ventures, generating value for society at multiple levels.

Body dona­tion to med­ical science

The dissection of cadavers, indispensable to teaching at the Department of Anatomy, is only possible if the Department is provided with a sufficient number of cadavers for this purpose. All persons of age and with legal capacity have the opportunity to give their body donation consent in front of witnesses.

The details on a completed and submitted body donation consent form can be registered into the My Kanta service, after which they will be available to the nationwide health care system. You may enter the following message in the open field included in the My Kanta organ donation testament: “I have given consent to donating my body to the University of Helsinki”. You may also check the box for organ donations, since these two options are not in conflict. Each person can only donate either individual organs or their entire body, depending on the actual situation at the time of donation.

My Kanta


"This is the place where death delights in helping life"

The dissection of cadavers is indispensable to teaching of gross anatomy at the Department of Anatomy, and is possible only if the department receives enough bodies for this purpose. The law on the use of human organs and tissues for medical purposes 101/2001 enables a deceased person to be transferred from the healthcare system to a university's anatomy department for teaching purposes, if the deceased person has given written consent to this by means of a body donation consent.

All persons of legal capacity can make a body donation consent in the presence of two witnesses. The document is drawn up in two copies, one of which is handed over to the Department of Anatomy and the other to the person donating the body. The document must be kept (by the donor himself or by a close relative) in such a way that the will of the deceased emerges upon his death. You can also indicate the existence of a body donation consent form in the MyKanta web service. You may enter the following message in the open field included in the MyKanta organ donation testament: “I have given consent to donating my body to the University of Helsinki”.

The agreement is cancelled if the body is no longer suitable for educational purposes, for example if a pathological or forensic autopsy is needed to investigate the cause of death. Also certain infections, operations performed shortly before death and severe emaciation make the body unfit for teaching purposes, whereupon the agreement is cancelled. If the donor has moved far from Helsinki after the consent has been written, the department of anatomy can arrange for the will to be completed at a closer anatomy department. Other anatomical departments in Finland: Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere, Turku.

A memorial service according to the religion of the deceased can be held a couple of weeks after the death in the presence of the next of kin. The ceremony is arranged in the chapel of the Department of Pathology (the anatomical dissection hall is in the same building as the HUSLAB/Department of Pathology). The department of anatomy pays the expenses for the transport of the deceased from the surrounding areas of Helsinki as well as for the coffin and cremation.

Seppo Kolari is responsible for the donation form archive and takes care of the practical arrangements for the transport and handling of the deceased, the memorial service and the funeral. He responds to inquiries and, if necessary, sends a body donation consent form. Seppo can be contacted either by telephone (02941 27304) or by e-mail University lecturer Marika Markkanen (029 412 5224, is the contact person for the Swedish and English speakers.

Contact details

Head of de­part­ment

professor Matti Airaksinen
PO BOX 63 (Haartmaninkatu 8)
00014 University of Helsinki


PO BOX 63 (Haartmaninkatu 8)
00014 University of Helsinki