Newly developed silicone models will ensure better learning

10th February 2021

Human skin is difficult to mimic. But a collaboration in the network Danish Healthtech has created silicone models that both look and feel like a human being. One model is to train doctors and medical students in putting stitches – on another model, future ear specialists can practice laying ear drains.

It can be difficult for medical students to build a routine in sewing wounds together. In the past, you have practiced on pork loins or soft foam, but it will never be the same as human skin. Therefore, Midwife Sara Kindberg, Chief Physician Karl Møller Bek, and the Technical University of Denmark have set out to create lifelike models of the human anatomy in silicone – with a focus on imitating both skin colour, material, and the tactile feel.

It is important that both doctors and medical students gain experience in sewing in human flesh, but they need the right prerequisites – lifelike models to train on. This will spare many people from pain in the future, says Midwife Sara Kindberg.

Used parts from pigs

She is the director of the company GynZone, which annually teaches more than 1,000 midwives, doctors, and students about childbirth, pain relief, and postpartum sewing at workshops.

When Sara Kindberg and Karl Møller Bek have previously taught their students how to sew wounds together after births, they have, among other things, used parts from pigs that she has received from a local butcher.

Due to a project under Danish Healthtech, GynZone will soon be ready with a lifelike training simulator of the woman’s sphincter, making it possible to learn how to sew a woman’s sphincter after birth.

The collaboration accelerated the development of the training model

The purpose of Danish Healthtech is to bring research and business together making better solutions for the healthcare system.

As part of the project, the Technological University of Denmark contacted Sara Kindberg’s company GynZone, as they knew that the company had been trying to create lifelike training simulators of human anatomy for several years.

We have previously tried with other partners, without the project reaching its goal. But the collaboration with the Technological University of Denmark has been well-organized and professional, and we have accelerated the development of our wishes, says Sara Kindberg.

Short loops and fixed feedback appointments

Mechanical engineer Sigurd Vigen Pedersen has been the liaison between Sara Kindberg and Chief Physician Karl Møller Bek at GynZone, and the company CS Metal.

A well-functioning collaboration means that the project has succeeded and that we have a usable model. We have agreed on fixed loops during the development of the prototype, where we meet every 14 days and evaluate the model. Here we have picked up on the adjustments from the last meeting and started new adjustments. Through these 14-day loops, I as a developer have received quick feedback, and Sara and Karl have always known how far I had come and what I was working on, Sigurd Vigen Pedersen explains.

The working methods that have worked in Danish Healthtech include

  • Short loops with regular meetings
  • Quick feedback on new adjustments
  • Small changes at a time
  • Sustained communication and dedication.

Special silicone blends feel like muscle and skin

Sigurd Vigen Pedersen has in collaboration with Sara Kindberg and Karl Møller Bek developed the mold that forms the basis of the model of the sphincter. The model must be molded from a special mixture of silicone, which the midwife, obstetrician, and engineer have come up with together with a silicone expert from the company CS Metal. Originally, the plan was for the simulator to be 3D-printed, but the chosen silicone mixture is better suited for casting.

The mold has been developed based on images and scans, and in collaboration, we have settled on the degree of detail. We have arrived at a material that is reminiscent of a transverse muscle, and one that feels like an intestine or skin, Sigurd Viden Pedersen explains.

In each prototype loop, Sara Kindberg and Karl Møller Bek have given feedback on the simulator’s consistency, shape, color, and tactile feel when inserting a needle into the model.

The project has created new commercial opportunities

In another sub-project under Danish Healthtech, Sigurd Vigen Pedersen has created a silicone simulator of an ear canal, where ear specialists can practice laying drains. The development has taken place in collaboration with specialist Michael Lyscher from Ørelægerne Sundhedshuset.

There is already both an ear simulator and a sphincter simulator on the market. But what the two solutions have in common is that they are too expensive for commercial use.

One of the goals of Danish Healthtech is to create growth within one of Denmark’s business strengths, life science, and welfare innovation, and this goal has been met now that two solutions have been developed at a much lower cost price than the existing ones on the market.

When we haven’t used pork loins, we have used another plastic model for teaching, costsing 1,000 danish kroner and not living up to its promises of durability. Our goal was to create a simulator for 100 kroner and we succeed, says Sara Kindberg.

Both GynZone, ear doctor Michael Lyscher and the Technological University of Denmark have gained value from the collaboration. Danish Healthtech has even created fertile ground for seeking new opportunities in the healthcare field. It has been interesting to be involved in developing solutions helping people immediately and it has been educational to work with talented people from the health sector. It has whetted my appetite to seek out other projects with the health sector in mind, says Sigurd Vigen Pedersen.


Facts about Danish Healthtech

The Innovation Network Danish Healthtech is based on a unique kind of partnership within health technology. The Innovation Network Danish Healthtech consists of a strong partnership with four Danish regions, which ensures access to clinical collaboration in the broader health service. Five universities and two technical institutes are strong knowledge partners, and as a whole, the network is part of a national ecosystem that has been built up over ten years.

It ensures that knowledge-bridge activities are created across the whole healthcare sector, which is an essential element in many of the challenges we face in terms of prevention and urban technology.

Written by Lotte Overbjerg, journalist at Welfare Tech

Photo: Sara Kindberg.

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