While we might not hear much about a "worldwide shortage of cadavers," the fact is that in developing nations and other places, they are in short supply. It costs money to properly embalm and otherwise prepare the bodies, plus they need to be kept refrigerated, and they can only be dissected under strictly-regulated conditions. A team from Australia's Monash University, however, has developed what could be the next-best thing – highly-realistic 3D-printed cadaver body parts.

The university's 3D Printed Anatomy Series actually takes the form of a kit that contains models of all the parts needed to learn the anatomy of the limbs, chest, abdomen, head and neck. It is believed to be the first commercially-available resource of its kind.

To make the models, real body parts are first scanned using either a CT or a surface laser scanner. The data is used to create a 3D computer model, that is colored to match the specimen. Using that model, a 3D printer then creates a high-resolution physical model from either plastic or a "plaster-like powder."

The kits can be produced relatively quickly and easily, and should reportedly be much more cost-effective than real cadavers. They also won't deteriorate nearly as quickly, won't smell of embalming fluid, and shouldn't present a problem in countries where religious beliefs forbid such use of bodies.

The university is currently negotiating with potential commercial partners, and expects the kit to be available later this year. A paper on its development was recently published in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education.

View gallery - 2 images