Fortune Brainstorm HEALTH addresses the future of 3D printed organs
Today and yesterday, the 1st & 2nd November 2016, marks Fortune magazine’s first Brainstorm HEALTH conference, held in San Diego, CA. The theme of the conference is “Seizing the Disruptive Opportunity”, the Opportunity being the application of new technologies in medicine. With artificial, or augmented, intelligence (AI) and 3D printing being two of the key components at the forefront of this new wave of healthcare.
Yesterday, San Diego saw a riveting debate between IBM Watson Healthcare’s Deborah DiSanza, athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush, and Dr. Anthony Atala of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM). The discussion tapped into many of the queries about technology in healthcare, surrounding the ability to replace humans as doctors and organ donors, with AI and 3D printing respectively.
Deborah DiSanzo, IBM Watson Health. Image via: Fortune
DiSanza, manager of IBM’s Watson AI healthcare sector, starts the discussion answering a question about how Watson ensures the safety of patients. She explains that Watson has learned how to detect different stages of cancer in patients and provide a possible diagnosis, through reading masses of research and data surrounding the subject. This leads on to further discussion about where the AI would be most useful.
In the debate, Bush of Athenahealth is skeptical of Watson’s directive as sub-specialist equipment. As a provider of health care through use of the cloud and mobile apps, Bush outlines the intent analysis performed by Athena in community hospitals, practices and care groups as a granular level, questioning whether intelligence such as that exhibited by Watson might not be better to wade through more atypical diagnoses such as when a patient has a broken bone:
Forget brain scans and cancer silhouettes—what about plain film and broken bones? Wouldn’t Watson be a lot more reliable with that? And isn’t that billions and billions of dollars of some radiologist looking at it and saying, ‘Yup, that’s a broken bone?’
Jonathan Bush, athenahealth inc. Image via: Fortune
In this, Bush’s misunderstands the purpose of Watson. DiSanza goes on to assert that IBM are serving to democratize health care, rather than replace doctors entirely.
Uniting both sides of the argument, Dr. Atala added ‘When you see patients coming through the door, 99.5% of the time, you’re going to know exactly what’s going on. It’s that 0.5% that really baffles you. And it’s not just on a sub-specialist level.’ He asserts that this is the main attribute of Watson. Afterwards, Atala then makes his case for 3D printing of tissue. His chief concern is how to produce organs to meet the growing demand of an aging population.
The regenerative medicine studied by Dr. Atala at WFIRM relates to the same 3D bioprinting research being conducted by Jennifer Lewis et al. at Harvard University, who have had a succession of developments in the 3D printing of ‘organs-on-a-chip’, including kidney cells and a heart. Already WFIRM have successfully managed to grow and implant urethras, muscle tissue, bladders, cartilage and skin from cell samples taken from patients. This however, was all done by hand, and Atala explains how 3D printing is looking to automate this already successful method of organ production.
Dr. Anthony Atala, Wake Forest School of Medicine Image via: Fortune
What is interesting is how all three sides of this debate will be able to pull together in medicine’s industry 4.0 to provide technological solutions that are cheaper, faster and more effective at catering to human need.
All of today’s remaining Fortune Brainstorm HEALTH talks are available to live stream on the Fortune website, and are afterwards archived in full on their Youtube channel.
Featured image shows the Fortune Brainstorm Health logo. Image via: Fortune conferences
3D printing or Additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).
A 3D printer is a limited type of industrial robot that is capable of carrying out an additive process under computer control.
While 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it was not until the early 2010s that the printers became widely available commercially. The first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. Since the start of the 21st century there has been a large growth in the sales of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially. According to Wohlers Associates, a consultancy, the market for 3D printers and services was worth $2.2 billion worldwide in 2012, up 29% from 2011.[
The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction (AEC), industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, civil engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields. One study has found that open source 3D printing could become a mass market item because domestic 3D printers can offset their capital costs by enabling consumers to avoid costs associated with purchasing common household objects.
3D Printable Models
3D printable models may be created with a computer aided design package or via 3D scanner. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is a process of analyzing and collecting data of real object; its shape and appearance and builds digital, three dimensional models.