New Body Parts

Hip Replacement

As I gear up for Hip Replacement #2, my sister sent this funny comic to me.Β 


I heard that something like a million joint replacements are now done in the U.S. every year.Β 


And these procedures are expected to increase precipitously with projections by 2030 of:


– 3.48 million knee replacements (a factor of almost 7 times)


– 572,000 hip replacements (an almost 2-fold increase)


This also means that revision surgeries will start to rise rapidly as replacements wear out or are in need of replacement themselves.Β 


Thank G-d that they have these procedures to help people–I don’t know how people lived with the incessant pain and degenerative mobility even a generation ago.Β 


What’s it like to have a body part inserted to augment your own?


Just ask this horse! πŸ˜‰

Robot Man

Robot Man

Don’t know exactly what it is about this little robot guy, but I really liked it.

The simplicity of the body and limbs joined by the connector joints and the head as just a clear crown on the rest.

To me, it looked relatively realistic as how robots of the future might actually look.

Humanoid, but so sleek that they are us but in many ways a step up from our aging selves.

Perhaps, someday the brains of humans and the bodies of machines will really come together in a better alternative to ourselves.

Living (indefinitely) longer and even pain free in bodies that carry mind and soul into the future.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

1St Day Post-Op

1St Day Post-Op

So surgery was yesterday around 11 am.

I was asleep under anesthesia before I ever even got to the operating room, so can’t remember a thing, which is probably good since I hear that a lot of power tools are involved.

Right before, my wife kissed me and told me that the female nurses were all flirting with me–ha!

After the surgery, I was groggy like crazy.

When the nurse asked me if I knew what year it was, I blurted out “1993!”

Aside from the general anesthesia, I had some sort of nerve block.

Thanks G-d that has made the pain minimal to zero even.

The nurse this morning gave me a percocet in anticipation of the pain with physical therapy today–so I apologize if this blog is a little loopy today.

So far, although very stiff around the surgical area, I have already sat up, got up, even walked a little down the hospital hallway.

Waiting for more PT and OT this afternoon.

I just want to say thank you to G-d, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, all the nurses, and my wife and kids and other family and friends for taking such good care of and for all their thoughts and prayers.

One friend, even called me the bionic man this morning.

It’s been a really tough year with the loss of my mom in January and my dad not being well in the hospital and now in a facility to get him back on his feet again too.

And so far, my wife has been doing great keeping us going with only one big stress attack and trip to the ER to show for it. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Restoring Hearing Using Bionics

Restoring Hearing Using Bionics

A mother wrote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the miracle of Cochlear Implants.

Lydia Denworth described when her 2-year old son, who is deaf, got these implants and how now he is now able to attend 5th grade in a “mainstream school” and is “nearly indistinguishable from the other children.”

These implants allow her son, Alex, to have a conversation with another child about the hearing device that “can open up the world of sound and spoken language.”

Denworth states at the end of the editorial, “Moments like that make me deeply grateful for the technology.”

For me, reading this was an opportunity to go learn about the amazing bionics that has already restored hearing to 320,000 people!

While hearing aids amplify sounds and make them louder, they don’t resolve permanent damage to the inner ear.

A cochlear implant bypasses the damage by receiving sounds in a microphone, digitizing them, and converting them to electrical impulses that are sent directly via implant to the auditory nerves– bypassing damaged or missing sensory cells in the ear–in a way that the brain can understand.

I am in awe of the inventors–Graeme Clark, Ingeborg Hochmair, and Blake Wilson–who are being recognized for their pioneering research leading to the development of Cochlear Implants.

Hopefully, soon we can do for sight, smell, taste, and touch what we can do for hearing and restore the impaired to fully functioning again.

We are living in a time of great miracles–thank you G-d!

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bjorn Knetsch)

Warrior Augmentation

Warrior Augmentation

I love the direction DARPA is going in with robotic exoskeletons for our warfighters.

Helping soldiers perform their jobs easier, more capably, and with less injury using human augmentation is good sense.

Military men and women often carry weight in excess of 100 pounds for long distances and perform other tasks that challenge human physical endurance.

Creating a durable “soft, lightweight under[or over]suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers ability to efficiently perform their missions” is an smart and achievable goal, and one that would give us great advantage in the battlefield.

The timeframe of 2012-2016 is an aggressive deadline to form the mix of core technologies, integrate them, and develop a wearable prototype.

I think the goal of having this be “potentially wearable by 90% of the U.S. Army population” is notable as not something that is for just special forces or unique missions, but rather something that can medically protect and make for a superior fighting force for all of our men and women.

This is really only the beginning of human augmentation with sensors, storage, processors, and robotics to make our warriors fight with the best that both man and machine has to offer. It’s not a fight of man versus machine, but of man and machine.

Seeing and hearing farther and with more clarity, connecting and communicating timely and under all conditions, processing loads of data into actionable information, fighting and performing mission with superior skills (strength, speed, dexterity, and endurance) and integrated weapon systems, guiding warriors to their targets and home safely–these are goals that man-machine augmentation can bring to reality.

And of course, the sheer medical and rehabilitative benefits of these technologies in caring for the sick and disabled in society is enough to “pedal to metal” drive these efforts alone.

Like on the prescient show from the 70’s, The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology…Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.”

And I would add healthier and more deadly! πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to DARPA and Boston Dynamics)

Medical Hacks

Medical Hacks

Usually when we talk about the dangers of cyber attacks, we are concerned with the dangers of someone stealing, spying, or systematically corrupting our information systems.

But Barnaby Jack who died last week at age 35 brought us awareness of another, more personal and perhaps dangerous hack…that of hacking medical devices.

Barnaby, a director at computer security firm IOActive, became known first in 2010 for being able to hack at cash machine and have it dispense money.

In 2012, he drew attention to a flaw in insulin pumps whereby someone could cause it to administer a fatal dose to its unknowing victim.

This week, Barnaby was going to demonstrate how heart implants could be hacked, killing a man from 30 feet away.

With advances in the miniaturization and battery life of personal medical devices and implants for monitoring and managing patients health, more and more people could be exposed to malicious or murderous cyber attacks on their body.

With the potential for RFID embedded chips for managing our personal identities to bionics for replacing or enhancing human body parts with electronic and mechanical implants, the opportunity for someone seriously messing with our physical person grows each day.

If dangerous vulnerabilities are discovered and exploited in these devices, an enemy could go from the traditional attack on our information systems to potentially sickening, disabling, or even killing millions at the stroke of some keys.

Imagine people keeling over in the streets as if from a surprise attack by a superior alien race or the release of a deadly chemical weapon, only it’s not extraterrestrial or kinetic, but instead a malevolent cyber attack by a hostile nation or cyber terrorist group taking aim at us in a whole new and horrible way.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bhakua)

Those Are Some Prosthetics

Wow, prosthetics have come a long way–these are tough!

This video from Biodapt shows their high-performance Moto Knee being used in a variety of action sports including snowmobiling, motor biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, water skiing, snow boarding, and jet skiing.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (11 July 2013) explains how the Moto Knee has hydraulic components that provide “tension and range of motion for intense physical activity.”

They cost around $6,000 and don’t replace the regular walking version, but Mike Schultz, the developer understands the need for these advanced prosthetics having lost a leg himself in a 2008 competitive snowmobiling accident.

I think it’s wonderful that these high-tech devices are being made available for disabled people to be able to do a wide range of exciting activities.

My hope is that as the technology continues to advance that we can have–like a person’s legs–one prosthetic device that is adaptive for use in every day use as well as more intense activities and sports.

It is hard to imagine people voluntarily trading their body parts for mechanical implants–but one day, in the not too distant future, these mechanical limbs will not only be a substitute for repair of real body parts, but will actually provide some superior capabilities–they will be used for body augmentation–and thus even be desirable by those who haven’t lost limbs.

What gives a leg up to prosthetics, as Hugh Herr in the Wall Street Journal (12 July 2013) put it is “that the designed parts of the body can improve in time, whereas the normal body, the biological body, degrades in time.”

With regenerative medicine and replacement parts by design, more than ever our physical bodies will be just the transient vessel that houses our heart, mind and soul–that which really makes us, us. πŸ˜‰

From Wheelchair To Walking

Berkeley Bionics (now Ekso Bionics) has done miracles here in helping the disabled to walk again.

Based on the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) from Lockheed Martin that was developed for the warfighter to carry 200 pounds of weight at 10 mph, Berkeley has adapted this technology for medical rehabilitation.

I first watched this eLEGS technology on a National Geographic special called “Make Me Superhuman.”

This woman literally walks for the first time in18 years after a skiing accident, and I was literally crying for her.

She wobbled and would’ve fallen if not for the safety harness, but after a few times retraining her muscles to walk again, she was able to take steps and turn using the eLEGS exoskeleton technology.

Over and over again, she says how grateful she is to be able to stand, be normal height, walk again, and get out of her wheelchair.

This technology can really bring hope to the disabled, especially as it gets refined, more compact, and cheaper.

The vision is that paralyzed people will one day get up in the morning, put on the eLEGS, get in the car, and then walk around all day just like you and I.

Oh, what a great day that will be. πŸ˜‰

Superabled, Not Disabled

 

This is a video of South African sprinter and Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius–a double amputee fitted with curved, carbon-fiber prosthetic “Cheetah Blades” that can “challenge the fastest sprinters in the world.” 

There was a fascinating article about this in the Wall Street Journal today (2-3 June 2012)–on how high-tech implants are being put in people’s bodies and brains, changing them from disabled to “superabled.” 

The article explains how “the goals for many amputees is no longer to reach a ‘natural’ level of abilities, but to exceed it, using whatever cutting-edge technology is available.” 

And just like body implants are helping spur superhuman abilities, so too neural implants can stimulate brain activity to focus attention, faster learning, hone skills, and augment performance. 

Last September, Tim Hemmes, paralyzed from a motocycle accident, was able to use a brain implant to move a mechanical arm, just with his thoughts! 

“Technology can give us brains and brawn” and those with disabilities and the elderly who have lost mental and physical capacities will be early adopters–“they have a lot to gain and are willing to face the risk inherent in new medical technology.” 

There are many ethical questions when it comes to human implants–especially when it comes to the possibility of people voluntarily substituting technology for healthy body parts–just to have the Steve Austin-like, Six Million Dollar Man, bionic capabilities. 

Another question is once we start replacing our body parts–our very selves–with technology augmentation, at what point do we stop being us?Β  And at what point, do we potentially stop being human and become something else–half human, half machine–or even more machine than human? 

Like the mythical creature, the centaur, which was half man and half horse–it seems like humans have always wondered about what makes them who they are and ultimately what they might become if they try to co-exist or meld with something altogether different. 

By combining technology into our humanity, we are becoming something different–maybe a super human, if we use it ethically and for the good. Or perhaps we may become something more malevolent, if we go on to abuse our superabled powers to dominate or otherwise harm those less souped-up than us. 

Only time will tell where technological implantation and human augmentation ultimately takes us–it holds both enormous promise that we need to leverage and frightening risks that must be carefully planned and managed. 

 

 

Helping The Disabled Get Their Groove Back

I love this evolving technology using bionics to help the paralyzed stand and walk again.This technology for exoskeleton suits with motors, sensors, and external power supplies was first developed for the military to run farther, lift more, and so on.However, the application has been expanded to those who have had strokes, accidents, or otherwise have lost use of their limbs and movement.

Additionally, there is potential for industrial workers to use these robotic suits to do their work with less effort and more impact by augmenting their movement with hydraulic and battery power.

What Exso Bionics seems to have really gotten right is that the suit looks almost perfectly sculpted for a human body, appears to go on the person with relative ease, and helps the person move in a balanced and controlled fashion.

While these suits are still pricey and according to Fast Company (April 2002) cost approximately $130,000, Exso is looking get the rates down to between $50,000 and $75,000 retail.

Further, the article notes that other companies are building competing devices, such as Argo Medical of Israel that offers the ability to climb stairs and that activates by gesture without a therapist pressing buttons.Β  Similarly Rex of New Zealand offers a device that is controlled by a simple joystick.

I think the future for these bionic suits for the military and industrial use will be truly transformative in terms of providing superhuman speed, strength, and stamina to advance our capabilities and increase our productivity.

Moreover, the use of these exoskeletons by people who are elderly, frail, or sick is compelling and provides hope for people to live with greater mobility, self-reliance, and human dignity.