CT Scans help improve dental woes for Bilbies
AS IF they didn't have enough problems fending off feral cats and assorted other predators, bilbies also have to face dental problems.
But now, scientists have used advanced CT scans and the latest 3D printing to get a better understanding of severe dental problems in bilbies and how to treat them.
With dental problems putting strain on already endangered captive bilby colonies, the Save the Bilby Fund, run by Ipswich's Bilby Man Frank Manthey, sought the help of wildlife biologist Dr Steve Johnston, and animal scientist Dr Simon Collins, from The University of Queensland.
Delighted by the request, Dr Johnston and Dr Collins used a highly innovative method of imaging, commonly used in human medicine, to explore the bilbies' dental pathology.
Their focus started with a captive population at the Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld, comparing these animals to specimens at the Queensland Museum.
Dr Collins said CT scans of four bilbies from the Dreamworld colony were performed at the Veterinary Medical Centre at UQ's Gatton campus.
"From these scans, we constructed 3D models of the skull and teeth using Mimics Software," Dr Collins said.
"Our collaborators in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Monash University produced real life upscale models of the skull and teeth using a 3D printer.
"The skull models can now be used by veterinary dentists to assess any pathology and develop strategies to remove the teeth safely."
Dr Johnston and Dr Collins have successfully identified and described the pathology of the captive bilbies and are now looking for the cause of the dental problems.
"We believe the main issue is likely to be associated with the bilbies' diet, but we need to look at more wild animals to be certain," Dr Collins said.
The project has provided rare research experience for Samantha Nixon, a second year UQ biomedical science student who scanned bilbies and constructed models of the cranial anatomy and dentition.
"Wildlife conservation has always been my passion and researching dental pathologies in the bilby has been an exciting experience," Ms Nixon said.
"Seeing the way scientific research and clinical practice is integrated in a real-world environment has been a fantastic learning opportunity and inspired me to continue work in this field."