Researchers at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame recently placed an anesthetized lab rat in a CT scanner, created a digital 3D model of its skeleton from the scan data, and then sent that model to a commercial MakerBot 3D printer. A highly-accurate plastic replica of the skeleton was the end result.

According to a paper on the research, it would also have been possible to create models of the rat’s internal organs. It is hoped that such copies – of both animal and human body parts – could someday be used as inexpensive models for anatomy students. The scientists are also in the process of creating models of patients’ organs, for doctors to examine before performing surgery.

The project was initiated by honors student Evan Doney, and performed in the lab of research assistant professor W. Matthew Leevy. A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Last year, Dutch artist Caspar Berger created a 3D printed copy of his own skeleton, based on CT scan data.

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