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3D-printing startup creates organ replicas using MRI data to help train surgeons

Even if we’re not yet at the point of 3D printing full biological organs that can used in surgery, the subject of 3D bioprinting is regularly in the news. But French 3D-printing startup Biomodex has a different goal — to use regular additive manufacturing to create ultra-realistic organ replicas to help train surgeons.

“We do not do bioprinting,” Thomas Marchand, founder of Biomodex, tells Digital Trends. “That’s a very different topic. We’re a simulation company.”

One application Biomodex is using its technology for is education: Medical schools can use the 3D printed plastic “organs” instead of cadavers to make it easier to teach classes on specific pathologies. More interestingly, however, is the fact that the startup can also create patient-specific organ replicas designed to enable surgeons to prepare more thoroughly for operating on individual patients.

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“Surgeons can train on an exact replica of a person they are about to operate on the next day,” Marchand continues. “That can lower risk, allow for the trying of different strategies and processes, and a lot more. As a result, the surgeon is more calm and ready because they know exactly how to operate on a specific patient. This is a game-changer.”

As Marchand points out, even though bodies may be broadly the same, details can vary greatly — from the pattern of veins and arteries to the specifics of bone fractures or tumors. As he noted in a recent speech, every year more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. alone are caused by avoidable medical errors — making medical errors the country’s third-leading cause of death. He hopes that technology like 3D printing can help change that.

But Biomodex’s technology isn’t just about 3D printing. It is able to take regular medical data from MRIs and ultrasounds and transform it into detailed 3D-printable models using proprietary algorithms. “There is no need to ask the surgeon or the patient to carry out out undergo any additional medical imagining for us,” Marchand says. “We can extract everything we need from the existing scans.”