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Funding to help the dead give life through new clinical training and device testing

Published on August 1, 2016

We are delighted to announce we have awarded a grant amounting to £311,000 to support the University of Dundee’s pioneering work with Thiel embalmed human cadavers whereby the deceased will be helping to teach doctors potentially life-saving surgical interventions and to test new medical devices.

This additional grant takes our funding to almost half a million pounds to enable staff from the University’s School of Medicine and Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) develop a programme for training senior medics. Heart, stroke, kidney and liver patients are among those who will benefit from the training clinicians undergo and the devices that are tested using Thiel embalmed bodies.

This initiative will help replace animals used in the course of medical training and device testing procedures and it is hoped the programme will be developed in future to allow junior staff to be trained using Thiel cadavers.

CAHID built the first morgue in the country to use the Thiel method of embalming, bringing significant boosts to medical research and training in the UK. The Thiel method of embalming leaves cadavers with more life-like properties than those embalmed using traditional approaches.

Our Science Director, Dr Brett Cochrane, said, “It is imperative that any new procedure, drug or medical device is as safe as possible when applied to humans for the first time and the key to replacing animals in biomedical research is evidence-based, human-focused science.”

“Through the application and development of the Thiel embalmed cadaver model, Professor Houston and his team at the University of Dundee may well have one of those most elusive keys – human research and application that leads to direct clinical translatability to benefit people, not in 10 years’ time but with immediate effect.”

One of the interventions that the new project will help train doctors in is advanced abdominal aortic stent graft repair for aortic aneurysms, using a Thiel training technique developed by the University’s Professor Graeme Houston.

“We are very excited by the potential of this new programme which is, first and foremost, made possible by the incredible generosity of those who bequeath their bodies to the University for medical research and training,” said Professor Houston.

“This helps us move away from using animals to train doctors in advanced interventional techniques and allows us to carry out training in interventions where there is no animal model capable of replicating the human organ, such as Aortic Stent Grafts, which are used to treat aneurysms.”

“New medical devices are continually being developed and require rigorous testing before they can be used to treat patients. We are very grateful for the ongoing support of the Dr Hadwen Trust, which is important for the continuation of the programme of research and application.”

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