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Synthetic death

KAYLEEN TURNIS

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The University of Northern Iowa’s biology department will soon be able to enhance hands-on experience with synthetic cadavers. 

The biology department will receive the four specimens in coffin-sized packages filled with seawater spring semester; after that, biology students will no longer dissect cat cadavers as part of their learning in the biology program.

Purchasing four “SynDavers” was made possible through a grant for nearly $1 million to the biology department from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust according to the biology department’s website. 

“What’s cool about the synthetic cadavers is that they feel more like living tissue whereas a real cadaver is dead tissue. They will be easier to work with than a real cadaver would be,” said Alex Meirick, senior biology major and anatomy and physiology teaching assistant.

Biology students, professors and other individuals in the department had an opportunity to see one of the human-like SynDavers last week. 

They each had their first look at the artificial bodies, which are similar in size and feel to real human muscles, vessels and organs. The biology department looks forward to working with SynDavers during lab dissections this spring.  

“Hopefully the use of the SynDavers will provide students with a more optimal dissection experience, ” said Mary McDade, anatomy and physiology instructor.

UNI is the first and only university in the state of Iowa that will offer the use of SynDavers for dissection to students. According to the SynDaver website, several medical colleges around the country have begun using SynDavers rather than real human cadavers in their medical programs. Among the universities are: the University of Arizona, Arizona State and the University of Minnesota. 

The website added that the U.S. Navy uses SynDavers in wound research to test various methods of treating injuries sustained in battle. 

Over 500 hundred students at UNI are majoring in biology, with three quarters of the students intending to follow health-related fields after graduating from UNI, McDade said. All biology students are required to take a pre-requisite anatomy and physiology course. These include a lab with dissection practice. 

McDade believes UNI is very fortunate to receive such state-of-the-art equipment for learning and hands-on experience with human bodies. 

She said, “We think SynDavers will provide our students with a unique and top-notch dissection experience which they really need to prepare them for their professional experience in programs.”

Others in the department agree. 

“I think these will greatly benefit the biology department,” said Meirick, “not only because they will be a better learning tool in the lab, but because they will help bring more people to UNI for our biology major.”

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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa
Synthetic death