It is taken for granted that medical technologies will advance apace in the future, permitting rapid healing and perhaps even shaping of the human body, but it is unclear as to what direction this technology will take for most of us. Indeed, a surprising number of staples of the science-fiction medbay are already in use, from MRI and CT providing real time imaging of the internal functions of the body, to the hypospray providing needleless injections of drugs.
What, then, can we look forwards to doctors of the far future applying?
Using drugs to discourage the formation of scar tissue, and force the multiplication of progenitor cells in the area of an injury, the regeneration of damaged tissue can be forced. There are sharp limits to this technique, however, especially where the brain and heart are involved. Further, if this technique is frequently applied, the recipient runs a high risk of developing cancerous tumors in the healed tissue.
Used where forcing regeneration fails, the patient can be kept alive with mechanical assistance until such a time as it is possible to harvest his DNA, and insert it into standardized progenitor cells. The growth of these can then be controlled until an appropriate replacement organ is available for the patient.
Used where cloned organs are not available, considered untenable, or simply not fast enough, bio-compatible nanomachines may be injected into the target site, and guided to their destination via radio field. There, they latch on, and provide function lost by the damaged cells of the body. This technique is most often used to replace bones and filtration - type cells, such as the kidney, liver, and lung, and does a poor job of replacing muscle or glandular tissue.
Direct Genetic Modification
Primarily for application to genetic diseases, this uses retroviruses to insert a functioning gene into the patient's DNA. This can only add new proteins to expression, replacing non-functional versions. It is highly likely that this will not fully cure the patient, as it cannot reach every cell in the body, however, it will provide relief from the worst of expressed symptoms. Ironically, this technique is often used to fight extremely potent retroviruses, such as HIV and its derivitatives, causing the body to produce its own, mutating, spectrum of antiviral compounds.
Modified cells may be subject to attack from the immune system.
Originally developed in the USSR, direct control of the genetic code permits efficient, single-target bacteriophages to be generated from samples of the patients infection. Used where conventional antibiotics fail, these artificially generated viruses hunt and kill bacteria in the human body, with a high level of efficiency.
Mechanical and Biological Replacement
Better. Stronger. Faster. We have the technology.
Additional Ideas (3)
Three dimensional printers will become capable of not just printing plastics or metals, but organics. Defective heart valve? Take a scan and 'shop the affected area, then wait a day or two for your new heart to be printed, and you'll have a new heart free of defects. How about that broken nose from 8th grade? We can print you a new one in just a day. Always wanted blue eyes you say ...
Blood shortages are a common issue in the medical field, and as demand rises in the face of blood born pathogens, shortages are a major problem. Using algea modified with bone marrow DNA, scientists produce the first batches of artificial blood. The primitive plants produce red blood cells the way a tree produces fruit, or a grass plant sends out a runner to create a new plant. The cells bud off of the parent plant and drift away. The blood is harvested, mixed with synthetic plasma created via a second strain of genetically modified algea.
Internal organs are mass produced with a flexible gene series. Once the organ is connected with the body and the host is providing blood to said organ, the new organ is then exposed to a certain electromagnetic radiation (or another exotic kind) and the cells within the organ shift their genetic codes to match the host. Universal organs would be hardier than garden variety human organs and more efficient, of course.