Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsI think that neural treatment will be fantastic if it's the case that we can repair damage and if we've got on the one hand, the potential for something really great in terms of stuff that goes into the brain. But I think what you're saying is really focusing on what the potential is in the lab to be able to test out things and not wait until we're working with patients who have particular conditions. And so I think that's a really important step, because at the moment, we rely on animal models for testing most of these areas, to find out about bio-compatibility and whether or not we can stimulate neural cells in the way we expect.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsAnd if we can avoid the destruction of animals that's used in that process by having more tests available in vitro,-- In the Petri dish rather than relying on going into either an animal or human brain, that sounds like a really good thing, and ethically reduces the number of animals sacrificed in the course of research. But also allows us to make a number of tests well before we would go into the human brain of someone who's actually using it, to be able to see whether the treatment actually works.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 secondsI think they'll will always be a bit of a gap there, that we will need some way of doing trials with humans, and we will at some point do it first in human trial. But being able to put much more of the emphasis on demonstrating proof of concept in the lab with good cells, with cells that we can see the structures working, the neural cells functioning, is a very important first step.

Fabricating a brain

A different kind of trial - with a fabricated brain

Ethical ramifications

While the use of 3D printing in medicine offers many benefits, they also raise a number of ethical questions that will need to be considered as these technologies develop, such as: safety, justice in access, accurate ways to trial these technologies and whether these technologies should be used to enhance the capacity of individuals beyond what is ‘normal’ for humans.

Researchers, clinicians and policy-makers have much to consider. By identifying and starting to address some of the social and ethical implications of 3D printing in biomedicine before the technology is fully developed, there is a better chance of ensuring that the new medical treatments meet patients’ expectations for safe and effective treatments that also meet societal demands for secure, fair and cost-effective healthcare.

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This video is from the free online course:

Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts

University of Wollongong