Can 3-D Printed Rats Replace Animal Dissection and Experimentation?

Saturday, June 20, 2015
No more reactions like this when 3-D printed animals replace real ones (photo: Will Huntsberry, NPR)

The lives of millions of animals, used for dissection in science lab courses, might be saved if a new method for printing lab animals becomes successful.

 

A startup company, NecropSynth, says it can use 3-D printers to produce artificial lab animals, such as rats, for biology students to dissect. Not only would animals’ lives be spared, but “gone would be the smell, the chemicals, the dead animals” that gross out high school students semester after semester, according to Smithsonian.com.

 

But science instructors should not worry that the artificial rats would not measure up to the real deal. NecropSynth cofounder Bart Taylor says his 3-D animals would have “layers so that they feel like real tissue,” as well as thicker qualities to simulate bones and muscles. They also could have “hollow conduits” filled with colored gel to represent the vascular, nervous and gastrointestinal systems, he says.

 

As an added benefit, the 3-D animals would also be cheaper than the real ones that schools purchase from medical supply businesses. NecropSynth says they can print a rat for $2 or $3 each, while an actual one often costs $8 to $12 apiece.

 

More importantly, NecropSynth believes that its process could potentially save the lives of the 6 million to 12 million animals that are killed annually for use in biology classes.

 

Taylor said they plan to expand their business to print other kinds of animals. But for the time being, they just want to get the rat right. “Right now I want to focus on getting a design that actually has guts in it,” Taylor told Smithsonian.com.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman

 

To Learn More:

How a Cheap Plastic Rat Could Change Biology Class (by Michelle Z. Donahue, Smithsonian.com)

Dissect a Rat Without Killing One with NecropSynth & 3D Printing (by Tarun Tampi, 3D Printing Industry)

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