Former VP Dick Cheney has gone bionic. During a recent heart surgery, doctors implanted a ventricular assist device to augment Cheney's failing ticker. But it also gives his critics another punchline to work with; because the device moves blood continuously, it doesn't mimic the pulsating rhythm of the heartbeat. Technically speaking, Dick Cheney no longer has a pulse. Insert Darth Vader comparisons here.
The rapidly aging population of the United States as the Baby Boomers reach their golden years doesn't bode well for our collective vision: 30 percent of Americans over age 75 suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common condition that causes the retina to degrade and decay, resulting in partial blindness. But after five years of deliberation, the FDA has approved the first implantable miniature telescope (IMT) that fits directly into the eye to correct the effects of AMD.
When Oscar the cat lost both his hind paws in a farming accident, it was feared he'd have to trundle around in one of those wheeled-cat apparatuses. But Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic veterinary surgeon in Surrey, pioneered a groundbreaking technique instead, installing weight-bearing bone implants to create a bionic kitty.
Implanting clunky electrodes or other devices inside people's heads could someday give way to smoother, silkier neuromedicine. Scientists say that they have successfully measured the electrical activity of cat brains by using a silk-silicon surface mesh, according to Technology Review.
Measuring sensors and actuators can turn any old hip implant into a smart network that helps patients avoid implant problems and may even actively regenerate bone. This "smart hip" system has already been demonstrated successfully on animals.
A current prototype allows physicians to activate the "smart hip" via wireless Bluetooth and a computer. The network of actuators which help stimulate bone growth at the implant's surface has also undergone tests in cell studies as well as animals.
Virginia legislators claimed victory today against implantable microchips by passing a bill that prevents employers or insurance companies from forcing patients to accept the devices. Privacy topped the reasons for concern, but the bill's sponsor also saw the microchips as the "mark of the beast," according to the Washington Post.
Natural body movements such as breathing and walking could soon power pacemakers and maybe even give some extra juice to your future iPad purchase. Princeton University engineers have turned silicone rubber sheets into piezoelectric materials that create electricity when flexed, which opens up a whole range of possible applications worn outside the body or implanted in strategic locations.
For victims of strokes, serious face injuries, or degenerative muscular diseases, losing the ability to blink threatens to compound their condition with corneal ulcers, or even eventual blindness. To help save the eyesight of people with damaged facial muscles, surgeons at the University of California-Davis Medical Center have developed a bionic eyelid implant that restores blinking ability with an artificial muscle.
For decades, people with vocal cord problems could only hope to communicate in the cold, robotic voice provided by a mechanical larynx. The search for a more lifelike, and individualized, voice has gone on for some time, but scientists from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, have finally designed a device that approximates actual speech in people with damaged larynges. The artificial larynx recognizes what the user is saying by monitoring mouth movement, and then uses a speech synthesizer to produce the correct words.