A South Australian manufacturer that 3D prints human body parts is poised to take advantage of “massive” export opportunites when medical schools rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and need alternatives to corpses.
Adelaide-based company Fusetec creates human body parts with realistic-looking skin, bone and muscle for surgical practise, replacing expensive cadavers.
The technology helps trainees develop skills by repetitive rehearsal and dealing with specific health problems, such as tumours, broken bones, defective heart valves or blocked sinuses.
A modelled head of the former United States President Barack Obama is also used to practise removing brain tumours.
The company collaborates with the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia and the Royal Adelaide Hospital to ensure the digital files are anatomically correct.
Fusetec chief Mark Roe said the company was in a good position for export success because medical schools around the world were looking for alternatives to corpses.
Any patient’s specific condition and organ could be recreated, enabling doctors and surgeons to practise on a precise copy before the real operation.
“Cadavers can be hard to source and continue to harbour viruses and bacteria,” Mr Roe said.
“While the pandemic has been an initial setback, we think it is a massive opportunity as people look to our products in place of cadavers.
“Our products offer the opportunity to train without the risk of viruses or bacteria you get with cadavers, as well as the storage, disposal and regulatory issues.”
Mr Roe said while the company was preparing for post-pandemic opportunities, it was possible it could manufacture organs for transplant within the next decade as technology progressed.
The company was in the process of refining more body parts, including wrists, knees and female genitalia, supervised by orthopaedic surgeons and gynaecologists.
Trade and Investment Minister David Ridgway said he was pleased the company was poised to take on international markets.
“Additive manufacturing provides an opportunity to do things differently and this diversification sets Fusetec apart from the competition, opening doors to new markets and new business,” he said.
“South Australia has a worldwide reputation for hi-tech innovation and Fusetec is leading the pack in its use of technology to work within the health and medical sector, gaining a competitive advantage through design and advanced manufacturing.”