We have heard so much about “bionic” body parts that have the ability to provide functionality to a person that they have been missing because of their disabilities. But have you wondered what kind of bionic organs are available to us? This infographic acts as a great primer on available bionic parts, their evolution, and what “natural” body part they replace in a human. (text version of this infographic is available right below it)
The Bionic Body: Breakthrough Transplantation Devices
In recent years, advancement in medicine and biomechanical engineering have allowed scientists to come up with a host of new cutting edge devices to replace organs, limbs, and other parts of the body. Here are some of the latest technologies and most promising projects involved in the making of the bionic body.
3D Systems and EksoBionics have designed a 3D-printed robotic suit that allows people with paralysis to walk again. The bionic exoskeleton, known as the Ekso, is used in rehabilitation centers to help patients recover from a stroke or serious injury, or manage conditions like cerebral palsy. Sensors and battery-powered motors drive the legs and make up for the lost brain-muscle function.
Total Artificial Heart
A completely artificial heart was developed by SynCardia, and has already been used in 1,250 patients awaiting a heart transplant. The device is a battery powered, self contained, total replacement system. SynCardia is not studying whether its artificial heart could be a permanent solution in people who can’t have transplants.
Merging function and form, today’s robotic prosthetics are capable of precise movements and look like realistic body parts. 3D-printed prostheses are being developed with anatomically correct shapes and come complete with cosmetic details, such as freckles, fingerprints, painted nails, hair, and even tattoos. Lifelike prosthetics help lessen the emotional trauma associated with the loss of a limb.
The i-limb quantum, by Touch Bionics, allows patients with prosthetic arms to program up to 24 commands into their smartphones related to control grips and movement. The robotic appendage uses myoelectric technology to function, which allows small sensors to detect minute muscle movements related to the programmed tasks, and a computer in the patient’s hand translates them into dozens of precise actions.
Hugh Herr, head of the Biomechatronics Group of M.I.T. Media Labs, wears his own creation: The BiOM T2 battery-powered ankle-foot prosthesis. The device merges advanced electronics and biomechanics to mimic lifelike motion, allowing the user a more natural gait. Since 2010, the world’s first bionic foot-and-calf system has been used by more than 900 patients worldwide, including over 400 war veterans.
Thought-Controlled Robotic Leg
A thought-propelled robotic leg is being developed by the Center for Bionic Medicine and the Feinberg School of Medicine. Previously, algorithms and sensors automatically adjusted the angle of the foot during different points in its wearer’s stride. Now, a pair of sensors embedded in his muscle tissue detect electrical signals from the brain, connect the neural dots, and wirelessly transmit that signal to the Proprio Foot. The device is targeted for commercial use by 2018.
Highly Mobile Modular Arm
The DEKA Arm System, also known as “Luke arm”, after the Star Wars character Luke Skywalker, was approved in 2014. It is the first prosthetic arm capable of performing multiple, simultaneous powered movements. The device decodes signals from what remains of upper limb amputations and translates them into complex motor tasks. The device which is sized and shaped like a human arm can replace a complete arm or just the hand and lower arm.
A Hand That Can Feel
After 10 years of research, the NEBIAS project has created one of the world’s most advanced bionic hands – one that can feel objects. The device was tested on amputee Dennis Aabo Sorensen, who was blindfolded but was able to grasp objects and identify what he was touching. A neural interface provides sensory information from the artificial hand to the brain. This links the patient’s nervous system with enhanced sensors embedded in the prosthesis, enabling the user to control complex hand and finger movements.
There are now some 100 recipients of the Argus II retinal prosthesis system, which is approved for use in the US and the EU. This “bionic eye” is a tiny camera mounted on a pair of glasses that sends images to an epiretinal prosthesis that is surgically implanted in the eye. Although the device does not restore sight completely, it enabled patients who have lost their vision to make out shapes and distinguish between light and dark areas.