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Bionics in Medicine

written by: Daniel Barros • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 9/30/2008

In the last article we mentioned how Bionics work and how they are being applied to everyday situations - this article involves the extraordinary work being done with Bionics in medicine.

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    Medical Bionics

    Welcome to the final segment in a series about bionics. This article will be discussing the benefits of using bionics in medicine.

    To re-cap, bionics are the use of biological systems in engineering applications. In medicine specifically, however, bionics are used to mimic organs and other bodily systems in an effort to create viable means of saving people through artificial creations. This may sound confusing at first, but consider some applications that are already on the market - like the artificial heart. The artificial heart has been around for a while - since the mid 1950s to be exact, and the technology keeps getting better and better. The first artificial hearts were primitive copies of modern machines used during heart surgeries to keep patients alive. As the technology developed, the idea of a completely artificial heart to replace a donor heart became more and more attractive. During the 1970s and the 1980s, a brilliant student at the University of Utah (Dr. Robert Jarvik) developed the Jarvik artificial heart. Since then, more than 350 people have received the artificial heart - one of them even lived 620 days using the heart. The FDA hopes to approve the AbioCor, a fully wire-free, implantable artificial heart for 2008 - the heart is recharged through a transduction device that sends power through the skin - the animal trials at this point look surprisingly promising.

    The artificial heart is the most prominent medical bionic device, but advances are being made with regards to the artificial liver and other artificial organs.

    The most interesting new advance comes in the form of an actual bionic arm developed by DEKA, and show off at the "All Things Digital" Conference in May of this year - the arm seems more than extremely promising - the only problem at this point is that (quoting the creator) it is made of "unobtanium" and "expensium". The arm was first tested using a computer input device, much like a robotic arm, but the creators shocked everyone when the arm was hoisted up to an amputee's missing arm and connected to his brain via a series of sensors. According to the creators and the evidence shown - the amputee was able to move his arm using his thoughts and only his thoughts - just like any regular arm.

    The video of the demonstration made at the "All Things D" Conference was truly remarkable - watching it, you can't help but think, "Yes, this is the future, and it's happening right now".

    As always, we will keep you updated on the latest and greatest in Bionic inventions, just keep checking back to Bright Hub for more information.

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