CSU develops artificial “bleeding” tissue (with video)

In the veterinary school setting, various materials are used to simulate skin and muscle tissue in order for students to practice incisions and sutures. Practice materials have included raw chickens, rubber sheets, orange rinds and even pieces of carpet padding.

Now, veterinarians from Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) have created what they hope is the best alternative to real tissue.

VTH Director Dean Henderson, DVM, DACVS, and research scientist Fausto Bellezzo, DVM, invented a type of artificial tissue that simulates sections of animal anatomy including skin, muscle, fascia and even blood.

“We had been concerned that the distance between the didactic training our students received and the first live animal surgery was too great,” Hendrickson said. “We felt like we needed something that might more closely mimic normal tissue in both characteristics and the ability to ‘bleed.’”

Simplified artistic rendition of the artificial multiple layer equine abdominal wall. (Image courtesy of CSU)

The inventors used silicone to create the material, due to its tissue-like feel and density. The consistency, elasticity and thickness of the silicone can be adjusted to realistically imitate the various tissue types. When cut, the tissue can also bleed artificial blood (made of food coloring, syrup, water and white glue) from vessels that run through the silicone layers.

“These vessels have connections that are hidden on the side of the model and can be placed randomly or in anatomically correct positions, depending on the goal of the particular training,” Hendrickson said. “If the goal is only to teach basic surgical skills such as clamping and ligating, the specific location of a vessel is less relevant. If, on other hand, the goal is to teach a particular surgical approach that requires avoidance of an important vascular structure, correct anatomical position of such structure becomes a very important part of the training."

Creating realistic blood vessels was the most difficult part of the project, the scientists said.

“The most challenging aspect was to create vessels that ‘behaved’ as natural vessels, were small enough to be anatomically correct, and strong enough to withstand handling with surgical instruments and ligatures,” Hendrickson said.

Though the artificial tissue has only just been unveiled, response from CSU students has been positive.

“This technology as it applies to teaching basic surgical skills here at CSU is just starting to get implemented,” he said. “We already had students experimenting with one of our most simple models to learn cutting and suturing skills, and the feedback we had from them was excellent.”

So far, the team has only created tissue models of the equine ventral body wall, uterus and ovaries, but the material could be used to simulate other animal tissue types.

"The technology is applicable to virtually any body parts of mammals, including humans,” Hendrickson said. “We have not yet focused on any other species, but are confident that it would be possible to transfer this technology to other species seen in the hospital setting, should the need for such training arise."

Bellezzo and Hendrickson invented the artificial tissue over the last 12 months. They said there has already been interest from a veterinary school and a medical school, but the material is not quite ready for sale on a large scale, and the team is not sure how much it will cost the end user.

“The project is in its infancy and we literally just made this public,” Hendrickson said. “Our goal is to make this technology available to all those who can benefit from it.”

For more information, contact Dean Hendrickson, DVM, DACVS at [email protected] or 970-297-1269; or Fausto Bellezzo, DVM at [email protected] Business inquiries can be directed to Stephen A. Foster, [email protected]   

Video showing the use of a new artificial tissue developed by CSU veterinarians.


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