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3D Printed Anatomy Series Offers Alternative to Cadavers for Medical Training


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A new 3D Printed Anatomy Series developed by scientists at Monash University may be the most realistic alternative to practicing on cadavers for medical students yet.

An Effective and Streamlined Training Tool

The kit contains anatomical body parts specifically designed for medical education, with the potential to revolutionize training in places where cadaver-use is not possible. It includes all major parts of the body, including the limbs, torso, head and neck, but no actual human tissue. The kit is believed to be the first of its kind to become commercially available.

According to Professor Paul McMenamin, the Director of Monash University’s Centre for Human Anatomy Education, the anatomy series is cost-effective and carries the potential to drastically improve training and knowledge for doctors and other health professionals. It could also aid in the development of novel surgical strategies.

“For centuries cadavers bequested to medical schools have been used to teach students about human anatomy, a practice that continues today. However many medical schools report either a shortage of cadavers, or find their handling and storage too expensive as a result of strict regulations governing where cadavers can be dissected,” he said.

“Without the ability to look inside the body and see the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, it’s incredibly hard for students to understand human anatomy. We believe our version, which looks just like the real thing, will make a huge difference.”

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A Worthy Alternative to Cadaver Use

Cadaver use for medical training has long been an issue in many countries where it is considered inappropriate for religious or cultural reasons. In these areas, the anatomy kit will be particularly useful.

“Even when cadavers are available, they’re often in short supply, are expensive and they can smell a bit unpleasant because of the embalming process. As a result some people don’t feel that comfortable working with them,” Professor McMenamin said.

The plastic models are also not subject to issues with preservation and regulation like actual cadavers.

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3D Printing Accurate Models

The body parts are made by scanning real anatomical models with a CT or surface laser scanner. They are then printed using plastic or a plaster-like powder, creating high resolution specimens with accurate dimensions and color.

“Radiographic imaging, such as CT, is a really sophisticated means of capturing information in very thin layers, almost like the pages of a book. By taking this data and making a 3D rendered model we can then colour that model and convert that to a file format that the 3D printer uses to recreate, layer by layer, a three-dimensional body part to scale,” said McMenamin.

“Our 3D printed series can be produced quickly and easily, and unlike cadavers they won’t deteriorate – so they are a cost-effective option too.”

The developers are currently negotiating with commercial partners and hope to have the kit on the market this year. A scientific article related to the training tool was also published in Anatomical Sciences Education.

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Photo Credits: 3DPrint.com

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