Pandemic setback a “massive opportunity” for human body parts company

22 July 2020
– Adelaide, Australia

From a child’s heart to a president’s brain, an Adelaide company making precision 3D printed human body parts sees the pandemic as a “massive opportunity” when the global rebound sees medical schools look for alternatives to cadavers.

Fusetec manufactures human parts including brains with tumours made to order for surgical practice housed inside a head modelled on the former US President Barack Obama.

Working in collaboration with the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia and the Royal Adelaide Hospital to ensure its digital files are anatomically correct, Fusetec prints a wide variety of parts complete with realistic skin, bone and muscle for surgical practice in place of expensive cadavers.

Organs or joints are reproduced to an accuracy of 20 micron, allowing trainees to develop skill by repetitive rehearsal dealing with specific problems such as tumours, broken bones or defective heart valves, even clogged sinuses.

It is in the process of refining more parts, from wrists and knees supervised by orthopaedic surgeons to female genitalia supervised by gynaecologists.

The company went into production last year but the pandemic saw blossoming international orders cancelled or deferred as restrictions interrupted medical training.

However, chief executive Mark Roe believes the company is poised for export success as medical schools around the world look for alternatives to cadavers.

“Cadavers can be hard to source and continue to harbour viruses and bacteria — 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,” he said.

“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.

“We can create complex anatomy on demand. Fusetec is taking medical training out of the 17th century and into the 21st century.”

As well as allowing students to practice, Mr Roe noted any patient’s specific condition and organ can be reproduced, opening the door for situations such as a neurosurgical team practising on a precise copy of a person’s complex brain tumour before tackling the real thing.

The company demonstrated this aspect when Royal Adelaide Hospital neurosurgeon Adam Wells worked on a 3D printed brain inside the “Obama” head.

Mr Wells used an orbital saw to open the cranium, carefully navigated through printed flesh and arteries, and removed a tumour.

While preparing for post-pandemic opportunities, Fusetec is not limiting its horizons — the company believes it may be possible to manufacture organs for transplant within the next decade and will be ready as the technology develops.

Minister for Trade and Investment, David Ridgway, is pleased to see a company like Fusetec 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.

“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.”

Contact Mark Roe:
P +61 8 7200 2413
M +61 432 245 500

Photos (Supplied)

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