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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds 3D bioprinting has progressed at a staggering rate in recent years. Could it be that the major barriers to advancement, the major barriers to taking 3D printing into the clinic, are non-technological? That they’re concerned with questions to do with ethics, and perhaps also to do with regulation? In order to address those questions in an efficient manner, it’s important we have continued community engagement. We will engage with the community, inviting questions from all aspects of life, all aspects that might be interested in the impact of 3D printing today, and 3D bioprinting in the future.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds Well, obviously there’s a lot of excitement about 3D printing, and there’s a lot of applications that are happening outside the medical area, and outside of research area, which are coming along. But as that’s happening, people are starting to ask questions about whether or not we’re ready for all of these developments, and especially in the medical applications. So I think that there’s an aspect related to public engagement and public understanding of what the potential is, but also public acceptance. And to get that, you require a degree public trust.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds Some of that trust comes from our existing regulatory mechanisms, that people have confidence that our drug regulation will actually make sure that the drugs we take have been tested for safety and efficacy, and same thing with other therapeutic goods, that they’ve been well assessed in those areas. So obviously, as you’re going through that phase, from problem to development of materials, or development of new devices, you’ve got that opportunity to check whether the regulatory mechanism is up to date. And that may be something that requires a number of stages of reconsideration. Similarly, we’ve got concerns about, when we move into the clinic, whether or not patients actually understand what these new treatments might be.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds And whether they’re aware of the potential for new things to happen down the track. For example, if I get a replacement hip tomorrow with existing technology, will I be able to get the benefits from a 3D-printed bone that may fit perfectly into my body in six months’ time? Or will I have lost that opportunity? So people need to know what’s coming down the track and be able to make decisions on that basis. So we’ve got the autonomy of patients.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds We also have some concerns about the ways in which, while these treatments, on the one hand, could vastly improve personalised medicine, can improve our opportunities for medicines directly related to our own cells, and grow new materials in our bodies, including organs. We also have the worry, though, that this might mean that some people won’t have access to that. Either that we’ll have some people extending the capacities beyond the normal human, the idea of transhumanism, or the idea that we’ll end up with a injustice, that some people won’t have access because they can’t afford them.

Skip to 3 minutes and 4 seconds And so we need to look at when we develop these things in public research labs, are we also trying to develop them primarily for a market, which may be one that relies on people having resources themselves? Or for the public, to support a public health system, which may be one where we emphasise [INAUDIBLE] we remove people from waiting lists for organs, for example. So there’s a really wide range of ethical issues that can be pursued.

Community engagement

Professor Sue Dodds was asked in the interview: Who is responsible for getting the information out to the wider community?

There is a lot of information out there but it is undifferentiated. However if we are going to do this in a regulated way that tries to match public expectations, the development and the science and our capacity to regulate well, then we need to make sure that the people who are making the expert decisions, about whether something is safe, whether it is something that will be covered by a health care system or not, whether physicians should offer them to patients, then that needs to match where the development and the research is.

Not sure we are quite there yet. I think we are a bit ahead in the research than we are in the regulatory process and I know within the European Union there is quite a bit of concern going on there.

A second level is the information going out to patients. The way in which people who are members of patient groups who may have particular conditions that aren’t well treated, as well as the wider community can start thinking about these areas.

There will always be some people who are very sceptical and a little bit worried about the potential for new developments to lead to a new warfare, where we have super soldiers existing, or where they might be worried about the potential for technology to mean that some people will never die, the idea of the end of aging.

Those things seem to be at the far stretches but In order to address the concerns we need to make sure that there is good communication engagement.

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This video is from the free online course:

Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts

University of Wollongong