Printing Your Own Medicine… and Organs

Chemist Lee Cronin is working on a 3-D printer that, instead of objects, is able to print molecules. It has exciting long-term potential: printing your own personalized medicine using chemical inks. The 3-minute TED talk below paints a fascinating view of the , but a great many issues remain. Following the video are two related TED talks with more near-term impact.

My reaction

I was amused at the comments on TED.com and had to add my own…

So will the use of illegal narcotics and abuse of prescription drugs explode? Where will we buy the “ink,” and can it be ordered online? Will the cartridges be refillable? Will we need a new constitutional amendment to ensure “the right to bear printers” or the “right to buy ink?” Who will profit from this new industry and lobby for the new laws and regulatory oversight (or lack of it)? As with any disruptive technology, there are many new questions, and there will be many incumbents fighting to preserve the status quo.

More realistic…

Cronin’s work is way out there, but related work is much closer to reality and even more exciting, for now. Here are the two other videos from TED.

Could tissue engineering mean personalized medicine? (6:20 min)

Each of our bodies is utterly unique, which is a lovely thought until it comes to treating an illness — when every body reacts differently, often unpredictably, to standard treatment. Tissue engineer Nina Tandon talks about a possible solution: Using pluripotent stem cells to make personalized models of organs on which to test new drugs and treatments, and storing them on computer chips. (Call it extremely personalized medicine.)It takes an average of 13 years and $4 billion to bring new drugs to market, and 99% of them fail.

The promise of research with stem cells (14:58 min)

Calling them “our bodies’ own repair kits,” Susan Solomon advocates research using lab-grown stem cells. By growing individual pluripotent stem cell lines, her team creates testbeds that could accelerate research into curing diseases — and perhaps lead to individualized treatment, targeted not just to a particular disease but a particular person.

Other TED talks on Health (lists several)

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