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Anatomical Cookie Cutters Offer Sweet Science Lesson

photo of body part cookies

Nov. 24, 2021 -- Thyroid cookie, anyone? Pancreas shortbread?

Thanks to gruesomely detailed cookie cutters that feature body parts from the brain to the foot — and every organ in between — you can now serve anatomically correct cookies anytime.

The 96 medical-themed cookie cutters are the brainchild of United Kingdom-based Bakerlogy.

The recent sugar buzz around the unusual baking accessories started with a lunchtime tweet by Francesca Ponzini, a second-year medical student at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

She sent out a photo of freshly baked liver and pancreas cookies.

Then she took a bite out of one the cookies and tweeted "a distal pancreatectomy has been performed, all margins are negative." (That’s med school humor.)

Within minutes of Ponzini's lunchtime photos, surgeon Siobhan Mckay, MD, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in the UK, tweeted that she had previously used the cookie cutters to create seasonal gifts for her transplant colleagues.

"They're just a fun little thing really, because no one can quite believe them," Mckay says in an interview. "They think [you've been] super skillful because they look so good, but actually they're the easiest thing in the world to do."

Surgical oncologist Andrea Merrill, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the Boston University School of Medicine, collects works of art that meld her "multiple passions" of medicine, art, and baking. She also jumped on the cookie-cutter thread.

"It just kind of resonated with me," Merrill said of the liver-and-pancreas cookie cutter. She was impressed by the accuracy of the rendition: "I mean, it doesn't have the blood vessels and it only had one pancreatic duct there; you know, there are usually two at least. So it's not 100% accurate. But it was pretty accurate. I felt like the bile ducts were pretty good."

Bakerlogy owner Louise Alan says they've been doing medical designs since 2015. They are trickier than the company's other products.

"Too much detail will make the design look too cluttered and yet it needs just enough detail for an accurate depiction," Alan says, adding that the anatomical heart was particularly popular.

Merrill was impressed by the range of organs available but wasn't sure she'd like to chow down on some of the creations:

"There were a lot there I definitely wouldn't want to eat…like sperm cookies,” she says.

However, Merrill says, "It's nice to bring some joy and a little bit of levity to what we do and the cookie cutters do that, and allow us to…joke around a little bit since we're mostly dealing with very serious and emotional things."

Mckay agrees. When you reach for a pancreas cookie covered in sprinkles, she said: "It not about the stress of [surgery]; it makes everyone normal people again, just having a coffee with each other."

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