What happens when you combine advances in 3D printing with biosynthesis and molecular construction? Eventually, it might just lead to printers that can manufacture vaccines and other drugs from scratch: email your doc, download some medicine, print it out and you're cured.
This concept (which is surely being worked on as we speak) comes from Craig Venter, whose idea of synthesizing DNA on Mars we posted about last week. You may remember a mention of the possibility of synthesizing Martian DNA back here on Earth, too: Venter says that we can do that simply by having the spacecraft email us genetic information on whatever it finds on Mars, and then recreate it in a lab by mixing together nucleotides in just the right way. This sort of thing has already essentially been done by Ventner, who created the world's first synthetic life form back in 2010.
Vetner's idea is to do away with complex, expensive and centralized vaccine production and instead just develop one single machine that can "print" drugs by carefully combining nucleotides, sugars, amino acids, and whatever else is needed while u wait. Technology like this would mean that vaccines could be produced locally, on demand, simply by emailing the appropriate instructions to your closes drug printer. Pharmacies would no longer consists of shelves upon shelves of different pills, but could instead be kiosks with printers inside them. Ultimately, this could even be something you do at home.
While the benefits to technology like this are obvious, the risks are equally obvious. I mean, you'd basically be introducing the Internet directly into your body. Just ingest that for a second and think about everything that it implies. Viruses. LOLcats. Rule 34. Yeah, you know what, maybe I'll just stick with modern American healthcare and making ritual sacrifices to heathen gods, at least one of which will probably be effective.
Via New Scientist