TAMPA, Fla. - Senior anatomy student Krystal Barahona has dissected pigs during class in the past, but today was a first for her.
She and the other students at J.W. Mitchell High School are the first high schoolers in the world to use man-made frogs for dissections over the preserved, dead frogs.
“It was really cool,” Barahona said. “I did the pig two years ago, the real pig, and the smell is definitely a lot better with the [fake] cadaver.”
Mitchell High School’s Principal Jessica Schultz says it’s the solution for students who have opted out of frog dissections in the past.
“I can tell you today, having been in first period, there was not a student who was sitting back, who was not paying attention,” Schultz said. “They were all engaged and fingers deep in the synthetic frog.”
Called Syn-Frogs, they’re developed by Tampa company Syn-Daver, and made from water, fibers and salt. Founder Christopher Sakezles says there is no comparison between the fake frogs and the real things.
“With a real, preserved frog, you’ve got basically a mess of grayish, brown organs that look like old chewing tobacco to me,” he said.
According to PETA, at least three million frogs are killed for classroom dissection every year.
“They’re taken from their homes in the wild, and then drowned in chemicals and dissected by students in the U.S.,” said PETA’s Samantha Suiter.
PETA has served as a major funder for Syn-Daver.
Sakezles started the company back in 2004, and he started doing material research to build the product before then. When the former engineer started the business, it was for medical device purposes. Over time, it became what it is today.
“The materials we have, have a lot of science and research behind them, and everything is from materials to completion is manufactured here in Tampa,” he said. “It’s a purely local operation.”
Sakezles says, while the synthetic frogs are more expensive than dissecting a real one, they are a better investment in the long run because they can be dissected more than once.
“They’re $150 a piece, but it’s not a fair comparison, because we’re selling equipment, we’re not selling disposables,” he said. “The real frog is going in the trash and you’re going to have to buy it again next year.”
There’s also no formaldehyde smell.
“No biohazards, no formalin, no carcinogens," Sakezles noted.
And it’s got the approval of many students.
“It definitely does feel very much alike, the organs all seemed pretty cool. They all felt pretty much the same as a real one would feel,” Barahona said.