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Medicine students develop 3D-printed human tissues for educational use

  •  Ignacio Toledo and Jaime Padilla, both students at the Medicine program of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, with the support of professors Mónica Osses and Carlos Godoy, developed three-dimensional models for educational use in the Histology field.


A team of students and professors at the School of Medicine of Universidad de Santiago de Chile have created a series of 3D printed models to enlarge microscopic body tissues and make them more accessible so that students can understand their functioning and potential diseases. 

The Project attracted so much interest that it was selected for the XXXVIII Congreso Chileno de Anatomía y el XIX Congreso del cono sur (38th Chilean Conference and the 19th Southern Cone Conference on Anatomy), with the name of “Programa piloto de elaboración de modelos impresos en 3D como complemento de la enseñanza de las clases prácticas de histología” (A pilot program for the development of 3D printed models as an educational complement for practical lessons on Histology). In the activity, the project was awarded the Best Poster Prize in the field.

The student Ignacio Toledo explains that the idea arose in 2015, “due to the lack of teaching material for human anatomy,” and the student Jaime Padilla added that it was also for the legal and financial difficulties in obtaining human bodies and their use for teaching basic sciences.

The project 

Based on study material requirements and the use of 3D printers in different academic units at the Campus, Ignacio Toledo and Hugo Morales, professor of Human Anatomy, developed a 3D printed model of a human brainstem.

Later on, Jaime Padilla, and Mónica Osses and Carlos Godoy, both Histology teachers, decided to create three-dimensional models to promote cross-learning in several courses at the School.

Regarding the project, Professor Carlos Godoy explains that currently all health-related programs require cadaveric material for teaching which is increasingly harder to obtain; this is the reason why 3D printing has become a good alternative.

“This technology allows to compensate for the lack of material and it also allows a 3D display of the tissues: in case of conventional optical microscopes, you can only see in 2D. Both students detected this historical need in the courses of Medicine and health-related programs,” Professor Godoy says.

At a first stage, the team detected the structures that were more difficult to understand and had a high impact on clinical applications. Then, they designed the models based on representations of normal and pathological structures as described in scientific literature. Subsequently, they modelled the 3D structures using software programs like Tinkercad, 3d Slicer and Meshmixer, and then they printed them using a 3D printer. They also prepared handouts to complement the classroom use of the models.

The research team says that the next step will be to evaluate and validate the histological models through their application and performance in the classroom.

Translated by Marcela Contreras

Soledad Fuentes Mansilla