Institute of Anatomy

About us
Body Donation
Anatomic Models
Clinical Anatomy Skills Lab

Division: "Centre for Evolutionary Medicine"

Admin Contact

044 635 56 05

Prof. Dr. med., PhD Frank Rühli, Head

044 635 53 15,



Our broad transdisciplinary research interests and professional expertise include work related to evolutionary (bio-) medicine and paleopathology, especially the aspects of human morphological variability and (micro-) evolution of human pathology / pathogens.

Recent highlights of such collaborative work include


- Rühli F. and Henneberg M. New perspectives on evolutionary medicine: the relevance of microevolution for human health and disease, BMC Medicine, in press

- Solomon LB, Hussenbocus S, Hoffman J, Howie DW, Rühli F. , Unusual appearances following intracapsular neck of femur fractures, Injury (2011), Volume 42, Issue 11

- Rühli F.J., Blümich B., Henneberg M.:Charlemagne was very tall, but not robust. Econ Hum Biol, 2010 Jul;8(2):289-90.

- Papageorgopoulou C., Rentsch K., Raghavan M., Hofmann MI., Colacicco G., Gallien V., Bianucci R., Rühli F.:Preservation of cell structures in a medieval infant brain: a paleohistological, paleogenetic, radiological and physico-chemical study. Neuroimage, 2010 Apr 15;50(3):893-901.

- Rühli F., von Waldburg H., Nielles-Vallespin S., Böni T., Speier P.: Clinical magnetic resonance imaging of ancient dry mummies without rehydration. JAMA, 298: 2618-2620, 2007

- Pernter P., Gostner P., Egarter Vigl E., Rühli F.: Radiologic proof for the Iceman’s cause of death (ca. 5,300 BP). J Archeol Sci, 4: 1784-1786, 2007.

Swiss Mummy Project


The aim of this transdisciplinary research unit

(co-head: Dr T. Böni, Orthopedic University Clinic Balgrist) is the paleopathological minimal and non-invasive examination of human mummies primarily from various Swiss collections. Main methods used include conventional X-ray, endoscopy, CT (incl. 2D- / 3D-post processing), MRI, light and electron microscopy as well as “meta-analysis” of literature on mummies. Besides individual anatomical variants and pathologies, peri-mortem changes and especially post-mortem alterations such as the impact of artificial mummification on a corpse’s radio-anatomical appearance, are investigated. International collaborations include the Institute for mummies and the Iceman Bozen (PD Zink), the Mannheim Mummy Project (Reiss-Engelhorn-Museum, Dr Rosendahl), Siemens Medical Solutions (Dr Speier) and American University Cairo (Prof Ikram).

Results Computed Tomography -Examination of King Tutankamun: 

Hawass Z., Shhafik M., Rühli F. et al.: Computed Tomographic Evaluation of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, ca. 1300 BC. Ann Serv Antiq Egypt, 81: 159-174, 2007 (published in 2009).

aDNA Lab


The work of our biomolecular group is focused on the retrieval and analyses of ancient DNA (aDNA) from archaeological finds or museum specimens, mainly prehistoric skeletal remains and ancient mummy tissue.

One of the most important requirements to avoid contamination with modern DNA is the handling of aDNA samples under clean room conditions. Therefore our work is carried out in two separate laboratories. The first, the aDNA facility (Clean Lab), contains all procedures of sample preparation, DNA extraction and the set-up of PCR. The second lab is a standard molecular genetics lab for gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing including a cloning facility.

Clinical Paleopathology Team

Our multidisciplinary research unit deals with clinical perspectives of historic human remains (co-located at the Orthopedic University Clinic Balgrist and the Institute for the History of Medicine, University of Zurich). Our collection includes a large human skeletal series from the 10th century AD and the Galler collection, part 2 (ca. 1500 macerated bone specimens of a 19th/20th cent. AD pathology reference series; Rühli et al., Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003). State- of –the art methods such as e.g. Micro-CT or pQCT are applied to assess bone microarchitecture. Furthermore, we collaborate internationally e.g. with the Institute of Anthropology, University of Mainz, Germany (Prof Alt) or the Arthritis Centre of Northeast Ohio, USA (Prof Rothschild).

The Biological Standard of Living in Switzerland (1865-present)

Correlative socio-economic, anthropometric and metabolic assessment of historic and recent data of Swiss Army conscripts. Main researcher: Prof Woitek, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics University of Zurich.

Clinical Anatomy

Variation and microevolution of osseous dimensions of a.o. the human spine (Collaboration e.g., with the Anatomical Sciences University of Adelaide (Prof Henneberg) and Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Royal Adelaide Hospital (Dr. Solomon)

Main funding bodies:

SFEFS - Schweizerische Stiftung zur Förderung der Ernährungsforschung  

Novartis Stiftung für medizinisch-biologische Forschung

Swiss National Science Foundation

Stftung Mercator Schweiz

Siemens Healthcare Systems Germany

Forschungskredit University of Zurich

Winkelried-Fund Zürich

Helen-Bieber-Grant University of Zurich

Stiftung für Wissenschaftliche Forschung Universtität Zürich,

Cogito Foundation

Deutsche Forschungs Gemeinschaft (DFG)

Göhner Stiftung

G+B Schwyzer Stiftung