29 May 2017


'3D bioprinting – An Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects (ELSA) framework' by S. Vijayavenkataraman, W.F. Lu and J.Y.H. Fuh in (2016) 1-2 Biprinting 11–21 comments
3D printing is one of the most innovative technologies in the current era, while 3D bioprinting is revolutionizing the medical technology industry. Bioprinting technology could help overcome the limitations of the current tissue engineering methods, including the problem of longer waiting times for treatment (especially with organ transplants). While fighting infectious diseases had been the main focus of medicine in the past, dealing with the consequences of a predominantly ageing population will be the priority in the future and bioprinting is a promising technology to tackle this challenge effectively. Bioprinting will not only cater the needs of ageing population but also in the field of paediatrics, where the bioprinted tissue or organ should possess the capability to grow with the patient. As researchers around the world are working on 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs, companies are burgeoning all over, making and marketing new bioprinters. While the research and commercialization are moving at such a rapid pace, the issues surrounding the technology, in terms of ethics, policies, regulations and social acceptance, are not addressed in commensurate. Identifying the ELSA (Ethical Legal and Social Aspects) concerns of this technology at an early stage is not only part of our social responsibility but also in the interest of the future of the technology itself. This paper reviews and foresees these challenges with pragmatism, thereby creating awareness to the researchers and policy makers and to urge a positive course of action in the foreseeable future. The significance of this work will be to address a broad audience, associated with this technology, from scientists to businessmen, engineers to clinicians, laymen to lawmakers. A ‘complete’ policy approach for this technology is recommended rather than a ‘piecemeal’ approach of the various constituents of this technology. An effective course of action will be to setup a multi-disciplinary international panel to work on the policy framework, which will look in to both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ impacts of 3D bioprinting, the associated ethical challenges, legal measures including patenting and effective controls to prevent the misuse, as well as the social aspects encompassing the cultural and religious differences which accounts for the success of this technology. Setting up national level panels to assess the risk-benefit analysis, taking into consideration the cultural and religious view of its population and other legal and social aspects, might be a good starting point.