The Visual prowess of Art

~Prakrut Paidisetty

3rd year MBBS

Dr Ulhas Patil Medical College and hospital Jalgaon.

Since the inception of mankind, we have been communicating with each other because of our inherent social nature. Undoubtedly , Art was the first mode of written communication as evidenced by the cave paintings that researchers have found over the years. It is proof that the visual prowess of art is among the highest in regards to communication. This holds true for medicine as well, ‘For to see is to understand’. With time, as everything else, art has also evolved and complimented the understanding of medicine along the way! From simple line diagrams as can be seen in the ancient holy texts describing the medicine of the time, to computerized 3D printing of organs, we sure have come a long way.

Although in recent years, newer and newer forms of art, like 3D models of human anatomy have gained popularity, we should keep in mind that medical paintings never lost their importance and formed the foundations of modern medicine and its evolution. With the advent of the printing press, more books were printed and hand- drawn diagrams converted to printed testimonials of the human body. They became more informative and clearer and are now what we see today in our Robbins and Harrisons to name a few.

The immense use of art to help people understand their surroundings and the human body since time immemorial cannot be ignored. It is clear that art is playing an indirect role in saving lives, but with such immense potential for improvement, Art has found a way to be directly useful in therapeutic practice- Of course, we are talking about 3D printing of organs!

In principle, 3D printing is a method by which a digital file is physically manifested into a real- life object by serially layering materials over one another. It has found widespread use in the manufacturing and the technology industry, allowing manufacturing of complex designs for which specific machinery has not been made yet. With its increasing use in the engineering field, 3D printing has found its way into an field involving the amalgamation of medical sciences, helping produce human body parts through a process called ‘ Bioprinting’. Bioprinting refers to 3D printers which deposit layers of biomaterial to build complex bodily structures like skin, bones and even corneas. The requisite cells are taken from a patient – or, if this isn’t possible, adult stem cells can be used – and cultivated into a bioink to ‘print’ an organic object. These are typically held together through some sort of dissolvable gel or collagen scaffold which can support the cells and mould them into the correct shape.

Though not commonly in use at the moment, 3D printing has huge potential for treatment, especially in the field of transplant medicine. Research all over the world is taking place to meet the ever- increasing demand for organs due to organ failure and other causes, and 3D printing will be one of the key modes of treatment. Researchers have already made an artificial bone matrix, using durable, regenerative biomaterial; 3D printed corneas which may potentially eliminate corneal blindness; 3D printed cartilage which just like real cartilage, has the capacity to grow.

Therefore, the future of medicine looks bright and colourful just like the magnificent paintings we have watched, admired and learned from in our medical career. Yes, for some naysayers this may feel like a machine uprising where humans end up becoming entirely artificially printed, but we should have faith in the human mind. All innovations have ethical implications and it is up to us, the future members of the medical and engineering fraternity, to take a wise and informed decision about how medical sciences will progress. But I can say with certainty that art will forever be an irreplaceable and priceless contributor to our understanding of medicine!

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