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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsWith the development of 3D printing body parts, we're going to have new people in the surgery. The operating theatre will not be a small suite of medical specialists. It will include some technicians. It will probably be the case that there's a 3D bioprinter going on in the corner. There will be someone who manages that, a technician of some expertise, as well as someone who will be advising about how best to place or how best to align the materials within someone's body. That means we're going to need to think a little bit differently about responsibility within the operating theatre. Is it the surgeon, as is the current case, who has primary responsibility?

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 secondsAnd the anaesthetist has responsibility for anaesthesia, but it is the surgeon who has primary responsibility for what the procedure is and how it's going, with support from the rest of the medical team. Or will it be the case that in the future we've got technicians, or perhaps people from medical device companies, who have a degree of control and responsibility because they're a bit like the person down at the car yard who has responsibility for making sure that the new part, which they have formal legal responsibility and liability for, is placed in the right way in my body.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 secondsThat means that we're going to need to develop some of our both legal responsibilities for those companies and for surgeons, but also ethical expectations of how decisions are made within the surgical ward. Who gets to decide whether or not a particular device goes into a particular person? Who gets to decide whether or not we've had a successful treatment? And who's responsible for the follow-up over time? I think that's going to be an interesting challenge for both regulators and for training of medical teams into the future, as well as for the technicians who may be in the operating theatre. Much easier in the case of the person who's simply asked to print out something.

Skip to 2 minutes and 5 secondsBut if they are printing out something using expertise, they've got the knowing how this will work in a body, then that relationship, building up those relationships and that communication, will be vital.

Hospitals of the future

In week 1 you may have read the article Dawn of the biofabricator the job that melds technical skills in materials, mechatronics and biology with the clinical sciences.

For those of us who can remember the television show The Six Million Dollar Man - consider the following quote from that show:

“We can rebuild him. We have the technology” – The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)

For the past few weeks you have gone on a journey that seems at times futuristic. Can you now imagine a hospital of the future with the following scenario:

There’s been an accident. The ambulances respond quickly. They are airborne craft, ensuring delivery of patients in a critical condition in record speed. During transit, 3D scans are taken of the patient and images are beamed ahead to the hospital. Robotic 3D printers prepare customised structures to stabilise the patient upon arrival. For internal injuries, the patient’s stem cells are located and the ink formulation relevant to the injury site is prepared. The operating theatre tools are modified so as the appropriate bio-ink reservoirs can be loaded and the correct print heads fixed to enable delivery to the injury site. The surgeon is ready to go. Unfortunately the patient will lose a limb. Technicians need to print a structure that will enable neural communications to drive the prosthetic. Meanwhile, upstairs in the clinical rooms, patients’ stem cells are being secured to enable routine screening for neurological diseases. Using a bench-top brain made with the patient’s stem cells, researchers team-up with clinicians to determine the most appropriate treatment to prevent disease development. Back to the surgery. The clinician plans the surgery with his robotic printing partner, several technicians are on hand should the printers malfunction.

  • How far away do you think we are from this scenario?

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This video is from the free online course:

Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts

University of Wollongong