Today, 3D printing is possible using plastics, clay, and metal. So why not use living cells? And what exactly could this technology, known as bioprinting, enable us to make one day? These questions occupy British designer Agatha Haines (London, 1989). Haines completed her master’s degree in interactive design at the Royal College of Art in London. As part of her PhD program, she is currently artist in residence at the Waag Society in Amsterdam. The focus of Haines’ dissertation is the design of the human body—and the associated ethical issues.
Research scientists and physicians are already working on duplicating human organs by bioprinting. Haines, however, envisions what it would be like to not only replicate existing human organs, but also produce newly designed, improved organs for implantation as (curative) therapy for chronic diseases and defects. In the same way, animal cells with useful properties might even be employed to create organs with entirely new properties. An organ that incorporates eel cells could conceivably function as a natural defibrillator, delivering a resuscitating electric shock in case of cardiac arrest. Such a vision admittedly raises the question whether it is ethical to implant “Circumventive Organs” into a human body and who might have access to such technology.
Haines’ designs are speculative; she uses her imagination to visualize future scenarios, often complex and theoretical, and to make them tangible. In doing so, she illustrates what a strong partnership and exchange of ideas between scientists and designers can achieve. Her vision takes us on a first step from fiction to reality and into the inevitable—and necessary—public debate.
Agi Haines is one of the 26 designers and studios that are selected for the group show Dream Out Loud – Designing for Tomorrow’s Demands. The exhibition can be visited from 26 August 2016 in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Read more about the exhibition or order tickets.