Bionic humans

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Once the realm of science fiction, bionics is slowly but surely becoming a reality. Advances in medical prostheses and computer technology are making the dream of building a bionic human a reality.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this?

Scientists are getting closer to creating a bionic human, or at least a $6 million one. Today, we can replicate or restore more organs and various sundry body parts than ever before. From giving sight to the blind to creating a tongue more accurate than any human taste bud, gentlemen, we have the technology. [1]

All about bionic humans

Implants that copy the simple structural job of skeletal tissue are the easiest to build. Hips, teeth and vertebral discs can all be replaced, and customised to match the patient.

  • Bionic eye

The bionic eye is currently undergoing trials in the US. The system uses a spectacle mounted camera that feeds visual information to 60 electrodes implanted in the retina.

  • Bionic ear

Bionic ear, or Cochlear implants, were first developed in 1969 by William House and Jack Urban. This is one of the oldest pieces of the bionic man, .

  • Bionic brain

An artificial hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for storing new memories) is being developed by scientists at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

  • Bionic tongue

German scientists have conducted successful tests on pigs of the first bionic tongue.

  • Bionic nose

A bionic nose is still awaited, but development continues on artifical electronic noses. Uses for such technology include laboratory noses for measuring aromas used in R&D for food, beverage, medical and enviromental applications.

  • Bionic heart

Designed for patients with end-stage heart failure when all other treatment options have been exhausted.

  • Bionic lung

Surgeon Robert Bartlett successfully replaced 100% of the lung function of sheep with an implantable artificial lung.

  • Bionic arms

Work by detecting movements of chest muscle that have been connected to the remains of nerves that once went to the lost limb.

  • Bionic kidney

A device that could be implanted, not unlike a pacemaker for the heart.

  • Bionic liver

Dr. Jörg C. Gerlach from the University of Pittsburgh invented a bionic liver that consisted of a tiny pump, a chamber containing human liver cells, and a catheter connecting it all to the patient. Martin Wickham from the Institute of Food Research has developed an artificial stomach to help decipher how the human gut reacts to various foods and conditions. This device is not intended to be a bionic stomach replacement though as the artificial stomach is not connected to humans and is not designed to replace stomach activitiy.

  • Bionic legs

There are two interesting developments in bionic legs:

  1. Replacement bionic legs for amputees. These bionic legs are attached following an amputation to help the patient regain lost limb function. An example of this type of bionic leg is the Victhom Power Knee
  2. Augmented bionic legs for soldiers and other heavy lifting applications. Pictured above is the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton, or Bleex, is part of a US defence project designed to be used mainly by infantry soldiers.
  • Bionic anus

Simulates normal sphincter function to give the patient control over defecation through a pressurized system.

CopperBytes

  • In fact, by culturing normal or stem cells it is now possible to grow pretty much any type of tissue. Some complete organs have already been grown from scratch.[2]
  • Artificially grown bladders have changed the lives of some spina bifida patients. Even working penises have been grown, for rabbits, who could ejaculate and successfully mate using them.[2]
  • But growing more complex organs with intricate systems of blood vessels is difficult. One possible solution involves making a plastic cast of an organ's blood vessels by filling a donated organ with polymer.[2]
  • The brain's complexity makes it doubtful we will ever recreate it. But some of its functions, and those of other parts of the nervous system can already be replaced by electronics.[2]

90 degrees

Despite all these successes and promising leads, the human body is still more complex than any machine, and we don't have the advantage of an instruction manual. All too often, artificial replacements come with a catch. Organ transplants require lifetime treatment with immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection, while some evidence suggests stem cells treatments can cause cancer.

Electronic devices suffer corrosion, wear and tear, and can require repeated operations to replace batteries. Powering them using movement or other energy from the body could be the answer.[2]

References:

  • Bionic Humans: Top 10 Technologies
  • Building the Bionic Man

Source

  1. Live Science
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 New Scientist