Imagine practicing IV starts, chest decompressions and intubations on synthetic human tissue and body systems that are identical to real tissue. Through the work of Dr. Christopher Sakezles and his Tampa, FL, company, SynDaver Labs, that day has arrived.
SynDaver has created and manufactures more than 50 different synthetic human tissue types. With them, it is possible to mimic every type of tissue, structure and system in the human body. Completing the picture is the soon-to-be-released, fully synthetic human body.
Dr. Sakezles began development of the synthetic tissue technology at the University of Florida in the early 1990s. Synthetic human trachea models were used by the university to replace live animals for testing new endotracheal tubes. The tracheas remain among the most advanced organ models ever made.
Later, Dr. Sakezles began developing synthetic models of other human tissues and body parts for the medical testing industry. Satisfying testing requirements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had generally required use of live animals, but creating high-fidelity synthetic human parts could reduce or eliminate live animal use in medical device testing. SynDaver Labs was founded in 2004 to manufacture and distribute these testing products.
The essential difference between the SynDaver products and other manufactured synthetic simulators is how accurately SynDaver products replicate human tissue properties.
"A lot make rubber parts, and some make virtual reality simulators," says Sakezles. "Where we differ is our strong core technology." According to SynDaver's website, "SynTissue-brand synthetic human tissue library now includes more than 50 discrete materials, including skeletal and cardiac muscle, arterial and venous intima, media, and adventitia, subcutaneous fat, skin, fascia, tendon, cartilage and many other materials. These analogs are experimentally designed on the basis of tests performed on living human and animal tissue to mimic properties such as modulus, strength, penetration resistance, density, dynamic COF and impedance."
In plain terms, this means that testing and training using these products offers identical feedback to the user or student as real human tissue. SynDaver products are used by every major medical device manufacturer in the world to replace live animals, human cadavers and even live patients.
While initially oriented to the medical device industry, SynDaver is now marketing its products to the medical care field. Hospitals can use SynDaver tissue samples, body parts, full torso and, soon, a fully synthetic entire human body to practice all kinds of invasive procedures.
According to Sakezles, "Abdomens can be inflated to practice laparoscopic procedures, and all kinds of surgeries can be practiced with realistic tissue, fluids and blood flow, along with cannulation and suturing."
SynDaver describes its Synthetic Human as, "a synthetic physical representation of typical human anatomy." The model includes a complete skin with fat and fascia planes; every bone, muscle, tendon and ligament in the body; a functioning respiratory system, including trachea, lungs and diaphragm; a complete digestive tract from esophagus to rectum; visceral organs (kidneys, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen); a circulatory system with heart and coronary arteries, aorta, vena cava, and the primary arterial and venous trunks leading to the extremities. Circulation is simulated by pumping heated fluid through the arteries, which then returns via drainage through veins back to the heart.
As SynDaver expands into the medical field through hospitals and emergency departments, Dr. Sakezles also has his eye on prehospital training uses. As an example, relatively inexpensive tissue samples are available that would allow teaching and practicing IV starts. Synthetic "Tissue Plates" contain skin, subcutaneous fat and muscle. Veins and arteries can be imbedded with or without a pump to add fluid flow. Students would be able to practice on materials that have complete fidelity to real human tissue and produce totally realistic visual and tactile sensations.
"Right now, we're a big secret in the prehospital market," says Dr. Sakezles, but he is looking at ways to change that. His initial focus will be to attend national trade shows, possibly including EMS World Expo in Las Vegas in late August. EMS providers would have a chance to see and work with SynDaver products and discuss how they could be used in their initial and ongoing training programs. There is also the possibility of exploring some fusion technology with high-fidelity training simulation companies, marrying SynDaver products with their technologies.
SynDaver offers an array of products from individual artery sets and sheets of abdominal tissue to fully faithful reproductions of complex human anatomy. This gives customers the widest possible means of getting just what they need.
To summarize the SynDaver philosophy: "Everything we do is all about two goals: high-fidelity tissue realism and cost-effectiveness."
Ed Mund began his fire and EMS career in 1989. He currently serves with Riverside Fire Authority, a fire-based ALS agency in Centralia, WA. His writing and photos have been published in several industry publications. Contact him at email@example.com.