I agree, Ann. While there's lot of research out there as to the potential, there are far to many unknowns and not fully evolved capabilities to make printing 3D organs a reality. Nice to know there is money and research time being devoted to this cause, however. Once we succeed, it will make some signficant changes in people's lives.
I think it will be quite a long time before we can print organs. First we have to be able to create them by duplicating their functions, and I don't think we're very close to that, let alone 3D printing them.
I personally have experience with titanium implants; just four months ago, I had three of my lowest vertebrea fused to my sacrum (L3 through S1). I now have eight screws, which thread through carriers, which are then held together with two vertical pins.
They expect the screws/hardware to loosen up over time, so at the time of surgery, they pulled bone marrow from my hip, and inject that into an organic sponge material and promote new bone growth between the vertebrea (disks removed) and along the titanium hardware. In days past, and still at some hospitals, they used to harvest full sections of bone from the patient's hip, or use cadaver bone to promote new bone growth. There were always problems with the patient's body rejecting the implanted bone, especially if it was harvested from a cadaver. This is not a surgery that I want to repeat due to bone rejection.
It was a long surgery and painful recovery, but I can't believe how much of my life I have back already! I have a long (10") vertical scar where they entered the back, but it is in a location that is normally covered. The x-rays are cool though, with the titanium glowing white relative to the soft tissue and bone.
Overall, it has been a positive, abliet expensive, experience, since I can tie my own shoes again. Only three days/two nights in the hospital. The only drawback so far is the extra waiting to get through security at the airport:( Thank goodness for body scanners!
Yes, I saw the home health care in action last week. I have a friend who was "admitted" to the hospital at home when a gallbladder operation resulted in a serious infection. He was monitored from home with visits from health professionals. We'll likely see more of that in coming years.
Rob: I agree with you that medical technology will be the "space program of the next decade." Patient monitoring -- thanks to new sensors and smart bandages -- will change the way medicine is practiced. The doctor's office could go the way of the house call.