Medical Innovations: The Bionic Human

by Marlena Zakrzewska on March 24, 2015

The potential for innovation is unlimited. Unknown-1

Accordingly to Arthur Toga from National Institute of General Medical Sciences,  University of California, Los Angeles:

Scientists are getting closer to creating a bionic human. Today, we can replicate or restore more organs and various sundry body parts than ever before.

I always  have been interested in innovation medical technology innovation.  I read recently a very fascinating article by Jenny Bryan in the Bulletin of  The Royal College of Surgeons about Bionics and Prosthetics into the future.

When paraplegic patient Juliano Pinto kicked off the 2014 World Cup using a mind controlled robotic exoskeleton, million of viewers caught a glimpse of the potential of brain machine interface (BMI) technology and neuroprosthetics for people with severe neurological deficits.

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 This robotic suit was developed by the team at Duke University in North Carolina to respond to electrical signals by the wearer’s brain.

However, the problem of such systems is that signals received by the electrodes are too weak to consistently initiate the complex movement.

 For sustained movements, the electrodes must be implemented in precise parts of the cortex to give the strong signals to fully control robotic limbs.

Touch Bionics 

UK-based Touch Bionics   produces  prosthetics hands with the specialised digits which are programmed to move individually to response to signals from electrodes place dover muscles in the upper arm.

Patients learn to activate specific muscle groups to achieve precise hand movements .

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Research at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University is focusing on restoring the sense of touch to prosthetic limbs.

Auditory Advances 

Cochlear implants were among the first bionic devices to get into routine clinical use and more than 300 000 people with severe to profound deafness are thought to have had implants inserted since mid 1970s.

imagesFor the future, some experts have their sights set on a totally implantable hearing device, with internal microphone and power source, to provide a neater implant with potentially less risk of accidental damage than devices with external components.

Organ Transplantation 

With the better manipulation and control of the immune system, it is possible to tailor anti-rejection regimes to the patients.

Also, thanks to the discovery that some patients naturally become tolerant of their transplants led to the identification of a biomarker signature to find patients who can be weaned of treatment, accordingly to Sagoo, Perucha and Sawitzki ( Development of a cross=platform biomarker signature to detect renal transalpine tolerance in humans).

An engineered heart could be the first organ into the operating theatre.

 In the longer term, organs engineered in the laboratory may hold the greatest promise for meeting demand for transplants.

The big question is how soon it could happen ?

As one leading British medical bioengineer points out:

it would be much easier to move ahead with bionics in a world without ethical constraints. 

As Jenny Bryan notices:

If mor people will agree to have holes drilled in their heads for implants or engineered organs connected to their circulation, the cyborgs beloved of science fiction enthusiasts could be walking on our streets in just few years. 

Nevertheless, with the need to gain patients consents, it will all take much longer…

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About Marlena Zakrzewska :

Marlena is a consultant with Bearing, with a strong background in analysis, cognitive and behavioural studies and innovation.

Marlena was educated at King’s College London and Humboldt University Berlin, and has been involved in extensive studies regarding social psychology and consumer behaviour.

She believes that by understanding what affects behaviour and, by extension, how to influence behaviour, both organisations and individuals can become more successful. Understanding exactly how small changes to the details of an offer can influence the way people react to it is crucial to unlock significant value.

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