02 March 2012

Printing Zombies

We already have "printers" capable of printing entire houses. There is the Cornell University printer that prints 3-D flying insect robots. A Drexel University paleontologist is building dinosaur robots out of printed 3-D dinosaur bones.

An elderly woman was a recent surgical recipient of a 3-D printed replacement jawbone. And we are not that far away from printing 3-D replacement tissues and organs using tissue printers.

San Diego startup Organovo is printing muscle tissue with a 3-D printer, aiming to create working muscle.
Unlike some experimental approaches that have used ink-jet printers to deposit cells, Organovo's technology enables cells to interact with each other much the way they do in the body. They are packed tightly together and incubated, prompting them to adhere to each other and trade chemical signals. When they're printed, the cells are kept bunched together in a paste that helps them grow, migrate, and align themselves properly. ­Muscle cells, for example, orient themselves in the same direction to create tissue that can contract.

So far, Organovo has made only small pieces of tissue, but its ultimate goal is to use its 3-D printer to make complete organs for transplants. Because the organs would be printed from a patient's own cells, there would be less danger of rejection. _Technology Review
Organovo will first print human tissues of various types to be used in pharmacological research, to replace animal models and other cruder forms of testing new drugs. They will use the income from sales of these tissue models to drug companies, in order to fund their replacement organ printing research.

But do you see where all of this is leading? First you print the bones, for assembling the skeleton. Then you print the muscles, to allow movement. The organs and blood vessels are then printed and assembled together. The only thing left to add is the brain -- the robotic zombie controller.

While cognitive scientists are almost able to create a zombie brain, they are still decades away from creating a realistic human brain. You should not be discouraged by this, since as long as we remove the cannibalistic instincts of our printed zombies, and train them to be docile and obedient, they can be used for many constructive purposes.

Consider the advantages of being able to use the car-pooling lane in your daily commutes. Or just imagine the surprised looks on your friends' faces when you show up at a party in the company of 2 or 3 zombies who look and are dressed exactly like you!

Just think of the many uses to which trial lawyers could put these zombies in class action lawsuits! Imagine the sympathy they could induce in naive jurors who didn't know any better. Why, one might even be elected president of the USA! It would not be unprecedented.

Anyway, give it some thought. We may not be that far away from such a brave new world, and you want to be prepared.

First published at Al Fin Potpourri

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Blogger Alex said...


Friday, 02 March, 2012  

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