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Machine-made humans: a spooky prospect

The healthcare team at Saycomms PR asks if major advances in 3D printing and bioprinting could lead to machine-made humans.
Some think technological advances like 3D printing are yes, very cool, but also a bit pointless. I’m the opposite; I love learning about these whacky inventions and especially, if they advance medicine. But further down the line, I’m conflicted. What happens when machines can do every job a human is needed for, even reproduction?

So what’s the big deal about 3D printing? Well, it has loads of applications in the medical industry. Earlier this month, we saw the first 3D printed pills and prosthetics have taken on 3D printing in a huge way. Now you can customise colour and design; children can even opt for a superhero theme. There are printed titanium hip joint replacements and made-to-order polymer bones already on the market. 3D printed scaffolds can also be inserted into the body for rapid natural growth. There’s a substance which helps brain tissue recover after surgery. So, machine-produced materials can already help human tissue grow. The next advancement is using a tiny sample of living cells, or stem cells, as ink to bioprint human organs– starting to get scared? It’s exciting because the transplant list crisis would be a thing of the past, they’d all be made by machines! Although the media regularly reports “major breakthroughs”, experts admit that printed organs are still a few decades away. However, ‘soon’ they’ll be able to print human brains, which would revolutionise neuroscience.

Last week a near-complete, lab-grown, human brain hit the headlines. The researchers aren’t giving much away about their method- probably computer-programmed. So again, like the wonders of 3D printing, what’s the point and why do I find this exciting as well as scary? The initial use is by the American military, investigating the effects of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. It’s then to be used to test certain drugs. A week ago researchers also reported getting closer to growing an arm in the lab.

All these futuristic technologies are incredible, but I can’t shake the feeling that surely this won’t end until some sort of machine has produced a whole human. Pretty spooky. Now let me remind you of one of my favourite films, The Matrix, and those fields of machines growing the human race. Let’s hope they don’t get the better of us too soon.

-Written by Becky W.

22nd September 2015

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