Technological Advancements in Bionics


Hello French Fries!

sleepy catIt’s almost Friday! This week has been super exhausting and busy, so I could use the weekend. The post Holiday rush at my work is compounded with a series of conferences and presentations over the next couple of weeks, so I will be really drained and happy when February comes rolling around. Any of you need a vacation so quickly after the long weekends and the holidays? I swear there’s got to be something wrong with my internal clock and melatonin levels because I’m having issues keeping my eyes open and my energy from burning out.

My rant of the day: I have a brother who has just graduated medical school to become a doctor, and in order to have a medium to converse with him about, I’m constantly keeping abreast of advancements in medical technology. One particular aspect of advancement in medical technology that fascinates me is bionics. Hardcore gamers will be familiar with the concept of bionics since it’s a common theme in many sci-fi and military video games. I had Bionic Commando for my Gameboy as a kid, and in college I was blown away by the Deus Ex series revival. Bionics have also popped up in films as well, such as Robocop, Star Wars and more recently the Kingsmen. You may wonder what are bionics and how do they influence the modern world of medical technology?

Bionics are the construction of artificial systems that mimic certain characteristics of biological or living systems. The most common and popular application of bionics is aiding people with disabilities or injuries, such as prosthetics for amputees. This is why bionics are such an exciting and cutting edge aspect of medical technology. There are many medical applications, such as prosthetic limbs for amputees or those born without a limb, exoskeletons for paraplegics, and even bionic eyes for the visually impaired and blind. Needless to say, bionics represents the advancement of technology to the point of making life medically better for humans.

In the truest sense of the term, bionics are not a new phenomenon.  Archeologists have unearthed prosthetic limbs and digits dating back to ancient Egypt. In the continuous warfare that was the ancient Hellenic Mediterranean, it was not uncommon for the few soldiers and sailors to survive battlefield injuries to benefit from prosthetic limbs. While many ancient innovations did not survive in social conscience following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, prosthetics were still used in much of the same way until the dawn of the industrial revolution.

amputee 19The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought a sense of awe, wonder, and optimism to the levels of human innovation utilizing newfound technology. The 19th century also witnessed much political turmoil and a rapidly advancing arms industry. However, while the capability and desire to kill advanced with newer, faster firing and deadlier guns, military leaders of the time still utilized Napoleonic battlefield theories involving large marching formation sets. As a result, the 19th century was not kind to the millions of soldiers who were conscripted or enlisted into service. Consequently, a rebirth in prosthetics and bionics developed. Inventors were incentivized to find innovations in artificial body parts so that injured soldiers, as well as victims of industrial accidents in the era of industrial factories could still function and not suffer a huge loss of mobility or worth.

This continuous process of growth and innovation has been complimented by the dawns of the industrial and computer ages. As advancements in robotics, medicine and the ability to share information have been achieved, prosthetics have evolved from peg legs, to wooden legs with joints, to robotic limbs, to robotic limbs that are synced with the host’s neural network and sometimes function better than the real deal. The fact that a medical solution that has been around since the ancient world is still common place proves just how effective bionics are on their host’s lives. They allow a semblance of normalcy to a person who otherwise would be at a disadvantage. Famous bionic men and women are abound in the annals of history. George Washington roused his troops with motivational speeches orated through not-so-wooden teeth,  Jerry Garcia rocked his guitar with a plastic finger, and Oscar Pistorious won Olympic gold and then murdered his girlfriend while astride a pair of bionic legs (I never said all disabled people were saints). These examples go to show that, like most medical practices, the aim of bionic body parts is to allow their hosts to rise above their injuries or disabilities and live full and meaningful lives just like the rest of us.

bionic2With the lengthy wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere taking their tolls, and with an ever growing global population, a larger scale of cases requiring bionic assistance has arisen which fuels a growing demand for bionic parts. The good news is that we live in a great age of technical and scientific achievement, and the lessons we are learning are being applied to bionics. Artificial bionic hearts are combatting heart disease. Ever-realistic looking bionic limbs are now synced to our smart phones and tablets and can now move like an actual natural limb. We are able to control prosthetic limbs with our neural responses while molding them to what remains of the original limb in a synchronize fashion. We are now even using bionics to cure blindness and visual impairments with new bionic eye technologies, which compliments are long held ability to aid those who loss their hearing abilities with hearing aids.

There is exciting studies and projects in the pipeline that point to a promising future as well. The next big step in bionics will most likely be less visible to observe. The human body has many different organs underneath the hood, and there are efforts to create bionic organs to replicate the processes of kidneys, livers, hearts, and lungs. These advancements in artificial augmentation or transplantation will hopefully mean prolonging human lives to a normal lifespan and giving patients the ability to live long, meaningful and productive lives. This is the future of medicine, we are on the cutting edge of technological advancement for human benefit, and I am looking forward to see how our medical capabilities advance with the aid of technological advancements in bionics.


Well, that’s it for today. I had some feedback that my posts are too long, so this post is short and sweet. Until next time…

… the ketchup is in the sauce.

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