Three-Dimensional Printing of Archived Human Fetal Material for Teaching Purposes

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The practical aspect of human developmental biology education is often limited to the observation and use of animal models to illustrate developmental anatomy. This is due in part to the difficulty of accessing human embryonic and fetal specimens, and the sensitivity inherent to presenting these specimens as teaching materials. This report presents a new approach using three-dimensional (3D) printed replicas of actual human materials in practical classes, thus allowing for the inclusion of accurate examples of human developmental anatomy in the educational context. A series of 3D prints have been produced from digital data collected by computed tomography (CT) imaging of an archived series of preserved human embryonic and fetal specimens. The final versions of 3D prints have been generated in a range of single or multiple materials to illustrate the progression of human development, including the development of internal anatomy. Furthermore, multiple copies of each replica have been printed for large group teaching. In addition to the educational benefit of examining accurate 3D replicas, this approach lessens the potential for adverse student reaction (due to cultural background or personal experience) to observing actual human embryonic/fetal anatomical specimens, and reduces the potential of damage or loss of original specimens. This approach, in combination with ongoing improvements in the management and analysis of digital data and advances in scanning technology, has enormous potential to allow embryology students access to both local and international collections of human gestational material. Anat Sci Educ 00: 000–000.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-96
Number of pages7
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • 3D printing
  • embryology education
  • fetus
  • human fetal development
  • medical education
  • undergraduate education

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