Like a program, the rapidity of the improvement gets faster the more you know. Using stem cells as a proxy for how much we 'know' we went from 'harvesting' stem cells to 'making' stem cells. Lately I've read a number of interesting (if opaque :-) papers about various scaffolds for holding cells as they develop into tissue. The third piece of this puzzle will be the triggers (or you can think of it as the minimum scaffold) to evoke the organ you're looking for. This is simply analysis, ongoing, checking the boxes, we have working systems to compare against. Sure it needs the insights to 'connect the dots' but if you look at the puzzle long enough you figure it out.
So step back for a minute and think about what that will mean for health care costs. If we can replace organs at will for people, that is a much more cost effective treatment of heart disease, or diabetes, or gout. The trick will be insuring that those cost savings return to you and me and not to someone else.
Then the second part is the costs associated with 'regular' care. So 10 years of dialysis + incidental infection care + machinery + visits is less expensive than the one day in the OR + 3 days post op?
I don't know, seems like a grown organ transplant should be less expensive, would love a heath care administrator to step in with some solid numbers.
I would love to be wrong. I would love to see the growth of spare parts reach mainstream use. But, I still believe their use will be artificially restricted, because of the cost of the skilled professionals involved and availability of proven alternatives.
I have GERD and daily I think about cancer, already I feel like I'm being strangled all the time. My doctor said it was a one in a million chance but constant irritation and a daily proton-pump inhibitor drug isn't my idea of being healthy.
Add to that my dad was diagnosed last January with IPF, an incurable progressive scarring of lung tissue, a cause of which is GERD; stomach acid splashes into lungs and over time can cause damage. Lung cancer seems like a walk in the park compared to IPF.
It would be fantastic if specific organs could be replaced it would solve my problem and for most diseases people develop other than entire body, systemic diseases or diseases of the brain.
How does the body "know" or get "told" to only manufacture wind pipe cells and not say grow a new toe?
Really impressive stuff.
There are a few good intro lectures about how stem cells work at http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=stem+cell+lectur... (please ignore the Samsung Galaxy S® III ads -- they are not totipotent in the least).
What's wrong with those machines? They're off-the-shelf machines that can be manufactured in large number as necessary and they're subjects to engineering improvement over time.
There are certain disadvantages to artificial mechanical machines.
1. Body's rejection to metals/plastic made objects. Patients who use those devices must take medicines to suppress their immune system to keep those machines functioning inside their bodies.
2. Mechanical machines are also very expensive because they are built rather than 'grown'.
3. They have moving parts which make them less reliable.
4. Many of those devices need external source of power instead of using body's energy (unlike biological machines that are highly 'plug and play') which makes them harder to maintain. It also increases costs because patients have to routinely visit hospitals to replace the batteries or fix them.
5. Even if you build highly advanced mechanical heart with non-biologial materials, it could have magnetic interferences and software level problems which are non-existent with biological machines.