3D printing is making rapid advancement and this technology is now being widely used in various areas. Human organs and tissues are now being created using 3D printers. In fact, this practice is advancing at such a rapid rate, that by 2016, it is going to trigger an ethical and political debate. While bioprinting, which is the medical term for the use of 3D printing to create living organs and tissues, will cause a controversy, the creation of non-living medical devices like prosthetic limbs, through 3D printing, will see an explosion in its demand during the same time.
What Gartner has to say?
According to Gartner Inc., the analyst firm, bioprinting will grow much faster than the general understanding of the consequences of this 3D printing technology. The research director of Gartner, Pete Basiliere said that the use of bioprinting might not be done with a bad intention but it definitely raises a question on the quality of the bio-printed organs and control of the process. It also questions the probable development of complex ‘enhanced’ human organs comprising of non-human cells.
Pete said in a statement “The day when 3D-bioprinted human organs are readily available is drawing closer, and will result in a complex debate involving a great many political, moral and financial interests”.
He also said that “The overall success rates of 3D printing use cases in emerging regions will escalate for three main reasons: the increasing ease of access and commoditization of the technology; return on investment, and because it simplifies supply chain issues with getting medical devices to these regions. Other primary drivers are a large population base with inadequate access to healthcare, in regions often marred by internal conflicts, wars or terrorism.”
In August last year, a biomaterial 3D printer Regenovo was invented by the Hangzhou Dianzi University in China, which printed a small kidney which lasted for 4 months. Last year also, an ear printer was demonstrated by researchers at Cornell University. Scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland developed a process of printing blobs of human embryonic stem cells. Another application of bioprinting was seen in 2013. A windpipe put together with her own stem cells, was given to a two year old child in the US.
The increased use of 3D printing for medical applications i.e. creation of human tissues and organs will cause an ethical debate to spark in the near future.
Image Source – 3dprinter.net