No, we're not suggesting there's a ZCorp 510 next to your left kidney. But there ARE 3D printers inside of you. Many of them.
That's a least the analogy suggested by Phun Yan Yan, guest blogger for the NUS School of Computing in his article "Biology for Computer Scientists". He proposes:
This predefined sequence of amino acids or better known as the chemical formula of a protein is defined (encoded) in a molecule called the DNA. Ordinary human cells have 46 huge molecules of DNA called chromosomes. Every human cell literally "reads" these molecules like a processor reading instructions and literally "prints" the proteins in a nano 3D printer called the ribosome.
And we think he's correct. Cells are indeed a 3D printer. They're just really small, and they can only print a niche type of object.
We've talked about the intersection of biology and 3D printing before, as there are many different explorations underway to discover useful medical applications of this tech. However, the concept presented here is far deeper.
What's being suggested is that, ultimately, 3D printers could print life itself.
They do already, of course, in our bodies every day. But the notion is that we could control the output directly. And no one knows where that might lead.