A New Form of Bodybuilding

3D Printing is revolutionising the way we manufacture products and is becoming an ever more dominant figure in the manufacturing sector. However, one of its most breath-taking applications is its use in the creation of human tissue, also known as Bio-printing, leading to the ever-growing possibility of someday 3D printing fully functional organs. But is the prospect of having new organs readily available for everyone a blessing, or a curse in disguise?

An Answer for Our Cries

Considering that the ultimate intention of 3D Bio-printing is to save and improve the lives of people, it should be ensured that this technology will benefit humanity. For example, Bio-printing can improve medical treatments as it can provide the means for fast, accurate and efficient testing of new medicine or therapy methods, replacing human trials and dramatically decreasing the time to market for potentially life-saving treatments. However, possibly one of the most desirable prospects of 3D Bio-printing is the production of fully functional organs.

Currently more than 119,000 people in the US and approximately 6,000 in the UK are on an active organ waiting list. From these, approximately 25 will die today whilst waiting and as the average human life expectancy continues to increase, these numbers will only rise, further widening the gap between supply and demand. Donor numbers have long now remained stagnant despite the introduction of government schemes aiming to tackle this problem. Therefore, could 3D printed organs be the solution? In theory, yes. Production of fully functional organs could effectively reduce the number of people waiting for an organ transplant since donor organs would become readily available. Organs could be printed on demand to patient requirements, removing the need for finding a compatible donor. In addition, patients in critical conditions requiring immediate care, like car accident victims, can be treated fast and effectively. Furthermore, Bio-printing will not only benefit the sufferers and their families but also hospitals and hospital staff. The requirements for expensive treatments such as haemodialysis, a common practice for patients requiring a kidney transplant will be minimized, reducing the costs both for patients and for the hospital whilst also freeing up staff.

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Moreover, this technology could also combat the dark side of organ waiting lists. The shortage of organs often leads people to explore alternative routes in order to obtain a life-saving transplant, generally through unlawful means. Organ trafficking, a form of human trafficking, is a reality and in fact an organ is sold every hour on the black market. Organs are usually sourced from third world countries in exchange for money or are illegally removed from dead corpses and sold on to people who can afford them. 3D printing organs could combat the organ black market by increasing the number of available organs at any time, benefiting the people waiting for a life-saving transplant and reducing the number of people having their organs removed, either willingly or not. Extended development of 3D Bio-printing could also suggest that transplant prices will be lowered as the market unfolds, further reducing the ‘‘need’’ for a black market and the costs of fighting it.

The Dark Side

But what can guarantee that the final outcome of 3D Bio-printing will be constructive? There are numerous examples throughout history where technology misuse has led to catastrophic consequences and so it is only rational that one can argue 3D Bio-printing may lead to similar results.

Although Bio-printing might reduce the need for a ‘black market’, it is also highly likely that this technology could open new routes for the black market to obtain a competitive edge. Bio-printing technology could potentially be replicated, flooding the black market with organs, and thereby imposing many risks, since no one can guarantee these organs will be produced to the required clinical specifications. Unregulated ‘‘printing’’ can therefore give rise to unfortunate consequences, especially if the transplanted organ fails to function. This in turn will raise further questions as to who is to blame when a person dies after a transplant, a consequence of inadequate regulations. Since it will be potentially cheaper and easier to obtain an organ from the black market it is expected that people will die or suffer from these non-regulated activities. This is most likely to have the greatest impact in developing countries where a cheap, life-saving organ could possibly hide fatal consequences.

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Furthermore, what about the people who can afford a clinically approved printed organ? Smoking, drinking and other drug usage is heavily criticised and widely illegalised by modern society on the basis of its addictive and harmful nature. Introducing Bio-printing, essentially an organ replacement process, might eliminate the health implications of drug use thus resulting in drugs being associated with satisfaction only, potentially sparking a drug flurry. Yet again, for people less economically fortunate, their pleasure seeking could possibly lead them to the organ black market trade and unregulated Bio-printing.

However, is that the sort of society we want to live in, where we can knowingly damage ourselves simply because we can fix them? Who guarantees that this behaviour will not expand to every aspect of our lives? Already many youth ‘‘role models’’ promote themselves through drug use and other bad behaviours. Do we really want to empower them further, demolishing our moral values? Could this misconception of safety cause an escalation of social decline?

Work is Still Needed.

3D Bio-printing is an exciting future prospect, promising to change many lives but as is the case with any form of technology, it could be exploited immorally. As such, there is a great necessity to implement regulations and form special governing bodies to control this technology’s employment in medicine. Of course, as with many moral dilemmas, this is not a black and white problem but in fact it has many shades of grey. Consequently, if a complete judgement is to be made on the development of Bio-printing and its eventual use, legalities and social issues should also be considered, taking into account religious and ethical values of the country where the technology is to be implemented.

Group 14: Philippos Hadjiioannou, Amir Hairuddin, Christos Georgiou, Aiman Nasir

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40 thoughts on “A New Form of Bodybuilding

  1. I feel that with some kind of regulation imposed on the procedure of selecting a person to be given a 3-D printed organ, for example not letting people who smokes gets a lung replacement as easily as someone who didn’t smoke, will still maintain the moral values that we impose now. Just my thoughts!

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  2. Judging from what I’ve read in this article, when and IF bio-printing becomes viable, it’ll be out of necessity for health and not pleasure. Regulations and measures can be adjusted in order to impose the seriousness of this practice and in a way convey a message – to the people – that it is not something to be ‘toyed’ with. In addition, even though the thought of ‘Hey,I got as many livers as I want, so drink up!’ might as well cross our minds, it’s not everyday that you find people willing to undergo operations for transplants! In cases of disease emergencies and/or poor choices I believe bio-printing will be successful in the future. The down-side is that, as with every ‘medical equipment’, the markets are vast and fast-growing, thus encouraging companies to just see it as another investment, and perform these operations more readily than they should. My underlying conclusion however is, that this MIGHT be a way to save lives, one that is needed, therefore it cannot be kept away from people who need it just because humanity might misuse it again.

    And on another note, how about stem cell grown organs? How will this affect the bio-printing research/industry? …

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  3. There is a definite need for a resolution to the shortage of organs. Whether this is through better government schemes to insensitivise organ donation or R&D projects as discussed. Based on the success of 3D bio-printing to date, it is potentially the answer. However, the technology needs to be carefully tested, introduced and monitored to ensure a controlled fair system is established.

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  4. I think 3D bio-printing would be a great idea in reducing waiting lists for donors and would be life-saving for a lot of people. If it were to be used for other matters such as reducing comorbidities and therefore healthcare costs, would the costs of 3D bio-printing outweigh the costs for the management of comorbidities?

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  5. Nice article! I personally find it difficult to balance the pros and cons, but it might be that bio-printing has more to offer than to damage, since we are talking for lives saving. However, such a huge technological advance carries with it great risks and it is obvious that the most important measure that needs to be taken before it becomes real is regulation; real and strict regulation determining who can use it and for what purposes. We are already experiencing real problems with the use of technology in areas that are poorly regulated leading to negative or even disastrous outcomes (take for instance information technologies used by the state and commercial companies violating people’s privacy, virtual currencies – unregulated area used to finance terrorist attacks etc). Thus, such regulation needs to be carefully drafted in order to be effective and strictly applied. Nevertheless, as long as we are talking for saving lives, I believe that such technology will be as beneficial as we allow it to be.

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  6. In my opinion 3D Bio -printing would be a great solution for human live saving (medicine or therapy methods, production of fully functional organs etc) which ensures harmonious coexistence of humanity. On the other hand the future usage will promote the Dark Side of it, which can provide catastrophic consequences for our society.According to religious and ethical values, the competent authorities must examine and reduce the risks posed by the implementation, promoting the efficient use of no cost to the society and generally to humanity.

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  7. Would this works for kids? Whilst the organs are fully functional, they cannot grow as they are still artificial right? Would the child need constant replacement of the organ as they age? Or maybe they can just fit an adult organ in a kids body?

    Based on what I read before, the normal organ transplant could increased the recipient risk of getting cancer. I assumed that it would not be better for 3D bio-printing organ. However, I still believe that this would be better than death due to organ failure as people could still survive after being afflicted with cancer. While 3D bio-printing still has their cons, I personally believe that it is a good thing for the society as it doesn’t only save the life of people with organ failure but would also decrease the case of human trafficking for organs. I believe that its benefits outweigh the drawback

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  8. Great read. following years look really promising,but is also true that we cant avoid the misuse of this .Big sharks will always find way to manipulate the products.there is no cure for this.And i think is also funny to be afraid to create something so amazing because we know that humans will use it for bad purposes.As a medical student i am really curious how much different will be my life as a doctor if this bioprinting will be ready to use while i will be a doctor,fascinating and scary..

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  9. Marie Curie quoted that “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Ironically few months later she was killed by her own invention. So is technology a good or bad thing? Well I guess it can be both. The only thing that we can say for sure is that we can judge the evolution but not stop it from happening. Following that I would say that organ bioprinting is something that will eventually happen so our efforts must focus on how we can eliminate the bad things associated with it rather than trying to stop it.

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  10. Well written article on both the Pros and Cons of this revolutionary concept. Well covered guys, well done for getting the information out there in a very non-biased way. Exciting to think of what awaits around the corner.

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  11. A very interesting and ambiguous matter! I believe 3D printed organs would have an enormous effect on the black market as well as saving and changing peoples lives. If placed in the right hands with strict rules and regulations it would be an amazing discovery.
    Transplants of different organs such as lungs and kidneys are usually required due to the lifestyle someone lives; if they are a smoker or a drinker for example, but what about people that do not have that choice. If they are born with no legs or arms, or even if they lost a limb because of a traumatic accident. I am not sure if 3D printed limbs will be designed but if organs can be surely so can limbs. People with cases like that should come first as they never had a choice!

    Great article.

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  12. Interesting concept which would obviously be life changing …

    Although as the article states , would this then give people the false idea that organs can be abused and that new ones are readily available …

    If this idea was brought into the medical world. I believe it would have to be only offered to those who did not inflict the damage to their organs by their own doing .

    Great Read keep up the good work .

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  13. I am impressed from what I read! I also like that you try to see both sides of the coin. I would be more impressed and thankful if you continue on working with this idea!

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  14. I believe that Bio-printing will be common in a few years time as it is an industry which can generate lots of money for governments and people, despite all the moral issues involved.

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  15. It is indeed thrilling to see ideas that as kids we only thought as science fiction and things of the very distant future actually coming to life.

    The uninhibited growth of technology is already a part of our lives if you consider that sending a text message with an ancient mobile phone was the cool thing just 10 years ago while today that same device evolved to a camera/phone/search engine etc etc. But since these are considered small things, people don’t really pay much attention, even though there are also drawbacks and “dark sides” in every kind of new invention.

    But when an advancement is announced that has to do with the human body or health in general, then and only then are morals and ethics of humanity questioned. In my opinion this happens because that’s when people realize how powerful technology and science actually is and are somehow threatened by it, even though they gladly welcome it in their every day lives when it’s about nice little things like skyping a friend. Even though the two examples may seem light years away from each other, it comes down to one thing: There’s no cherry picking.

    If people are so fond of technological breakthroughs, then they must realize that this will happen in every aspect and not just for cooler gadgets. Yes, history shows how technology is misused due to the corruption of mankind. But we can’t always be afraid of something new just because some people will misuse it. These people will always exist and they’ll always be one step ahead of any authority or law. The pros and cons are hard to balance, because they really are indeed. But so were the pros and cons of everything that was invented and is now a part of our lives, let it be telephones, TVs, PCs or whatever.

    So, if the day comes that 3D-Bio printing is something feasible, then it will just happen. It will be met with resistance and will be challenged and questioned. Mostly by people not affected by it. But I’m pretty sure that cases of people finding the dead bodies of their relatives with their organs missing because they were without consent “donated for research” will be minimized, since at least the black market or “the red market” more correctly, won’t have to snatch organs from dead people or pursue more terrible ways. And if uneducated people are willing to go for this route and then end up dead because of the body rejecting that organ, then it’s on them. Not because of that technology.

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  16. A true paradigm of innovative research, 3D Bio-printing will not only be effective in tissue/organ transplants but can be applied as tissue models for research, drug discovery and toxicology, making it an exciting contribution to biomedical science. In my opinion, I believe that through concrete legislation for 3D Bio-printing and the complexity of this technology would diminish any potential misuse.
    A well-written and honest article, covering both the potential applications and the challenges/ethical considerations that come with 3D Bio-printing.

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  17. Nice balanced article. However, may I divert your attention to the usage of “dead corpses”. This is a tautology as there is no such thing as a live one if you think about it. “Cadaver” should be a more appropriate alternative.

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  18. Well balanced article in terms of positive and negative sides of 3d bio printing. But, given the fact that this technological advancement could save millions of lives, I don’t believe that the black market is a real problem. This technology if it’s well used, legally protected in the hands of highly specialized and educated people , will make miracles happen for humanity. Therefore, I strongly believe and advice governments to legitimately should allow the development and use of 3d bio printing, with moderation. This ethical concern should not stay out of the law and be well protected to serve for the good of the world. Strict measure should also be taken for countries with illegal frameworks, acting against the worldwide laws. In fact the sense of cutting edge technologies is to use them appropriately. Lastly, since it will globally expanded into welfare systems there social inequality rights, will be reduced to minimum.

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  19. I believe that this will be very benefitial for the people that actually need the organs, even though it should be regulated enough to avoid any misuse.

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  20. Very interesting and thought provoking article presenting different angles to 3D organ printing. Looking at the lack of supply and the number of people who die on waiting lists each day, I think 3D organ printing is a glimpse of hope for those in need. Personally I don’t think that this would lead to a rise in bad behaviour as there are many things that provoke this. Furthermore, just because organ printing can lead to higher organ supply, this doesn’t minimise the risks of surgery, infection and the organ working in harmony with the rest of the patients body. Furthermore, on the point of the black market becoming stronger due to 3D organ printing – what stops them from developing it themselves? With enough will power and illegal investments the black market could develop this technology themselves so I don’t see why we should stay behind. We should be at the forefront of innovation and save lives where we can within the ethical boundaries. Another question that arises though is what are these ethical boundaries?

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  21. A very good read and interesting proposal. I believe that this could change the future of organ transplants if it goes ahead but should be well regulated in order to prevent any misuse of the organs. Excellent idea!

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  22. Very insightful article! I believe that 3D-printing of organs is a step forward in the medical field. Looking forward to seeing its future development!

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  23. This reminds me of an episode in Grey’s Anatomy! Its amazing that science-fiction could soon become reality. This is a great article which covers many different angles that must be considered when such novel tech is being investigated as a potential to improve healthcare. Thanks for the insight!

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  24. Definitely a fantastic idea! 3D printing of artificial organs is almost a necessity especially for patients who are on the waiting list as they have to wait for an organ that is of the correct type, matching blood type and size. The artificial organ can be “personalized” if you will and would save thousands of lives. It would be a great breakthrough in the scientific field.

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  25. This is a great idea and would be an amazing development in the medical field! It definitely has its downfalls but there will always be pros and cons so it’s just a matter of minimising the dark side and considering all the ethical issues.

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  26. I think it’s a great idea that can save many lives. But what will happen when a dysfunctional organ is created? I know that you have referred to it but you didn’t really provide an answer. Will we blame the machine? The people who thought of this or the people who made the machine? It will take just a case in which a dysfunctional organ will be created to loose faith in the 3D bio-printing and question it’s functionality.

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  27. This is a great article as it provides some of the merits and drawbacks of 3D-Bioprinting. It will definitely benefit the humanity, but is that enough? It is hard sometimes to identify the benefits and disadvantages of something as people sometimes think according to their religious and ethical values. Additionally, the long-term effects of 3D-Bioprinting should be considered. For example, some people may argue that there will be a reduction in deaths caused by organ diseases, however, some people may argue that this might lead to overpopulation, thus causing further potential problems in the future.

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  28. Based on the pros and cons of 3D-bio printing discussed above, I think this is a great idea that may help to overcome the organ shortage crisis and thus help to reduce the number of patients dying while on the waiting list. My major concern about this technology is the complication after organ transplant which is graft rejection. Thus I’m curious to know whether will 3D-bio printing organ cause graft rejection due to immune incompatibility? Nevertheless, with the rising numbers of diseases that lead to organ failure such as diabetes mellitus cause ESRD, I believe that 3D-bio printing should be further explored as it may become a major breakthrough in engineering as well as medical field. Hence, kudos to the writers for writing such an insightful article.

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  29. Technology is met everywhere in modern world and nobody can stop its evolution. People can use technology aiming to both the good and the bad. The same will happen with Bio-printing. Let’ s hope human beings will not abuse this new technology but only for helping suffering people

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  30. 3D bioprinting of organs will indeed reduce waiting lists for organs and will mean that there will no longer be any age restrictions on said organs. The organ donation system might be left to the lower classes as the wealthy may take advantage of all kinds of transhumanist life-extension techniques, replacing everything from their eyes to their livers as they wear out due to age, whilst the poor are unable to purchase an organ which they are in desperate need of in order to remain alive. Is this really a step forward in the medical field?

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