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3 Next Generation Medical Devices for the Ultimate Bionic Human

In the 1970’s television series, The Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner played Jaime Sommers, a professional tennis player that was badly injured in a skydiving accident. Surgeons were able to save her life with bionic implants. During the time that the series was filmed, the field of bionics was in the infancy stage. Medical research has produced the following three next generation medical devices that are in the realm of a possible future bionic human.

  1. Electromyographic Tracking for Prosthetic Legs:  A full range of motion was not available with original non-powered prosthetics. Technology advancements have led to powered prosthetic lower limbs. However, patients are required to stop or slow down to push a button to transition from one ambulation mode to a subsequent mode. Electromyographic (EMG) tracking has been highly successful controlling arm movements. A research team, led by Levi J. Hargrove, Ph.D., from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, has shown positive results utilizing electrical signals generated during muscle contractions for prosthetic legs. The researchers forecast ambulation modes by utilizing patterned recognition algorithms. The research marks the initial integration for EMG tracking into a real-time control system for prosthetic legs.
  2. Piezoelectric Powered Pacemaker:  Medical research has revealed technology for a perpetual motion pacemaker. Engineers from the University of Michigan have developed a pacemaker that is powered by heartbeats. The pacemaker does not need batteries or an external power source. The vibrations in the chest fuel the pacemaker. M. Amin Karami, lead researcher, states that further testing on the piezoelectric pacemaker is required before a release date can be forecast.
  3. Vagus Nerve Stimulation Device:  Microtransponder, located in Houston, Texas, has developed an implant to retrain the brain of stroke patients. The implant stimulates the vagus nerve, sending electrical currents from a nerve in the patient’s neck. The electrical currents result in the release of neurotransmitters, which signal learning in the brain. Blood clots in ischemic stroke patients block oxygen to the brain. The neurotransmitters permit the brain to reroute connections around oxygen starved areas. Microtransponder expects the implants to be available in the U.S. market by the middle of 2016.

*Photo courtesy of Cyborg Manual by Randy Adams at Flickr’s Creative Commons.

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