Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tried & True Tuesday: Prosthetics

Quickly, I'd like to first recognize Dr. Charles Drew Day... today is the birthdate of the physician, surgeon, and medical researcher who developed a system for storing blood plasma & organized the 1st blood bank in NY during WWII. This development allowed medics the opportunity to save thousands of lives during the war as well as long after. Ironically, he was not allowed to donate himself since he was black and his continued protest of the existence of racial segregation in regards to blood and medical interventions, ultimately cost him his job. Kudos to Dr Drew for continuing to continue research and practicing what he believed in, despite adversity and criticism.

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." 
~Dr Carl Sagan

Now, prosthetics...

you first think of "fake" body parts used as a replacement for a leg lost in battle or a foot lost to disease... but they've also brought about a great increase in the quality of life for those who have found themselves in circumstances warranting the use of one or more.

The word is from the Ancient Greek word prĂ³sthesis meaning: "addition, application, attachment" and is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part, which may be lost through trauma, disease, medical necessity or congenital conditions.

Children with hydranencephaly do not typically benefit from the use of these "tried and true" replacement body parts...

or at least not yet!

image courtesy of The New York Academy of Sciences at nyas.org

Introducing the concept of neuroprosthetics 

yes, that's a real thing; 

it's actually a discipline bringing together the world of biomedical engineering and neuroscience in order to create brain prostheses. Series of devices, think cochlear implant, are being created to boost the abilities needing extra attention in order to function at a more "typical" level; one more in line with independent, healthy living. As these teeny, tiny internal motors communicate with external  prosthetics wirelessly; the greater the possibilities that exist are for those requiring implantation.

As shared by our friends at Disabled World:

Neural Prosthetics - New Hope for Disabled World
Author: American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Published: Mar 23, 2014 (Revised: Mar 23, 2014)

Detail: Among the marvels of modern medicine are neural prosthetics, tiny bioengineered devices that surgeons implant in brain tissue to compensate for a variety of disabilities to the human nervous system. Physicians already have had much success with cochlear implants for the hearing impaired, with future research programs aimed at assisting epileptics, victims of Alzheimer's disease, and even individuals who have sustained spinal cord injury and loss of limbs.

Neuroscientists see a vast horizon for these micro implants, which are able to read electrical and chemical signals from the nervous system to stimulate sensory function lost through disease or injury. What the amazing devices do is avoid the damaged neural lines of communication in the body to restore function. In the case of the cochlear prosthetics, for example, sounds gathered from a tiny microphone are converted to electrical signals and used to stimulate the auditory nerve of deaf patients.

Neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, materials scientists, and mechanical engineers are all collaborating on the research and development of neural prosthetics, which each year receive $6.5 million in funding at the National Institutes of Health.

Engineers play a significant role in the interdisciplinary research and development of neural prosthetics.

Engineers will be called on to make innovative use of materials to design and fabricate devices that allow sustained electronic functioning in the environment of the human body, without causing tissue infection or other serious conditions. Research efforts have focused on technologies that enable the micro devices to be safely implanted in human tissue for long periods. Sarah Felix, a research engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), is making gains with thin-film flexible polymer materials that allow devices to conform to the live tissue in which they are implanted.

Lawrence Livermore is currently developing neural implants that are able to restore auditory, motor and bladder function, aid speech, and control depression and epilepsy.

Future programs at the lab include experimentation with deep brain and spinal cord stimulation, which will enable physicians to advance neural prosthetics to the next level of human health and rehabilitation.

Promising clinical studies are underway at some of the most prestigious medical research centers in the U.S. as the scientific community continues to advance neural prosthetics to help disabled persons achieve quality of life.

Indeed, neural prosthetics will be an intriguing pathway of multidisciplinary scientific and engineering development for years to come.

Now, who was the last person to question why I believe in investing in medical research? Any more questions?

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love to hear from our audience - share your comments with us here or join us on Facebook!