Teaching human anatomy to student doctors and budding biomedical scientists requires the dissection of human corpses. The problem is, dead bodies are not always readily available to teaching hospitals. In recent years dissection-based teaching has declined because of the costs and ethical problems involved with acquiring cadavers. There are also concerns about exposure to formaldehyde, a toxic compound used in embalming fluids. Now 3D printing offers an alternative: highly detailed colour models of human body parts based on data from computer tomography scans of real bodies. Researchers have debuted the fabrication technique by printing a polymer hand (pictured) featuring tendons, muscles, arteries, nerves, skin and bone. Such reproductions should be particularly useful in countries where religious beliefs mean bequest programs are banned.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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