Medical knowledge is literally a matter of life or death. Surgeons don't get do-overs, but it's just practice that makes perfect. That's why doctors have honed their skills for years on human cadavers. But how do veterinarians learn how to treat animals in need?
Veterinary training facilities known as terminal surgery labs often teach future vets by performing procedures on live, sedated animals that would've otherwise been euthanized at the shelters keeping them. The test animals are then euthanized immediately after the surgeries.
One company called SynDaver Labs hopes to end that practice by creating a highly sophisticated synthetic dog vet students can learn from. The corpse corp's best known for creating a synthetic human cadaver as a training replica — the invention has shown up on episodes of TV programs ranging from "Grey's Anatomy" to "Shark Tank" and "Mythbusters."
Using a unique mixture of fiber, salt and water, SynDaver's able to replicate muscles, skin, fat, bones, joints, ligaments and all internal organs. The company collaborated with the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine to make sure the replica matched the real thing. Students will learn how to perform tracheotomies, cystectomies, intubations, intestinal surgeries and more.
Dr. Christopher Sakezles, SynDaver's founder and CEO, says in the video above that the replicas are "a highly complex system that mimics every part of the animal. You're going to be able to do a lot of different things with it. Trauma training. Spays. Veterinarians will be able to train in brain surgery with no risk to an animal."
The company hopes to build 1,000 synthetic canines and provide up to 20 each to the 49 accredited veterinary schools around the world "and end the use of live dogs in veterinary training," says Sakezles.
SynDaver recently launched a two-month-long crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds to produce the dummy hounds. Though the company's goal is $24 million, the flexible nature of the campaign means they'll be able to keep any funds raised.
While the SynDaver dog replica may keep unwanted pets out of terminal labs, it'll put the onus of euthanization back onto the shelters where the animals were kept. According to the ASPCA, approximately 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats are put down in U.S. shelters each year.