To Bioprint or Not to Bioprint

October 11, 2015

Recent scholarship on regulating 3D printing implicitly presumes the same regulation should apply to printing from both non-biological materials and biological materials. However, this presumption is mistakenly grounded. Technically, bioprinting is a subcategory of 3D printing. However, printing from biological materials presents different public policy considerations than printing from non-biological materials. When experimenting with mammalian genetic materials, emerging technological and scientific advances attract strong political, regulatory, and ethical debates. The societal scrutiny is further heightened when the genetic materials are from humans. One analyst group speculates a global debate in 2016 as to whether to regulate bioprinting or ban it altogether. Banning bioprinting altogether is an easy solution, but it will stop technology and science from progressing. The more difficult question is how the law should regulate bioprinting. Current regulations on synthetic biology are not sufficiently comprehensive to regulate bioprinting because bioprinting moves synthetic biology’s production out of the laboratory and into everyone’s home. After analyzing different ways to regulate bioprinting, this Article offers a novel framework to regulate bioprinting: except for research and life-threatening emergency, the legislature and the medical profession should jointly regulate access to bioprinting’s blueprints, sources, and bioprinters.