Science has been amazing us for centuries. More specifically, the field of health and medicine has been making great gains, particularly in the past few years. Modern medical advancements continue to push the limits of our brains, and help multitudes of people with illnesses and conditions. There are teams of researchers and scientists who are dedicated to studying the complex problems that continue to stump us. Yet, they have developed plenty of mind-boggling creations and projects.
This is a list of ten body parts that are being redeveloped and engineered by experts. Imagine having a nose that could smell sickness in the air? Or a leg that did the thinking for you to help you walk? Thanks to modern technology and the advent of the digital age, we are living in very exciting times. 3-D printers are being used to create realistic human ears, and one man has used USB tech to transform his finger into a small database.
You will marvel at the advancements and strides medical scientists and researchers are making. We may be closer than ever to providing diabetics with an accurate and efficient pancreas. The difficult-to-understand connection gap between images and sight is starting to close. Medicine is truly incredible.
Scientists are discovering a way to craft skin that is tougher and more resistant to the daily wear-and-tear. A synthetic skin replacement means that humans may be flaunting new electronic skin. Through the use of a highly-durable and synthetic material, scientists are working towards getting rid of skin grafts. Led by Stanford researchers, the new material is highly sensitive and could replace human skin in the future. At room-temperature, the skin could even heal itself. It is made from a type of plastic polymer that is electrically conducive and is currently being tested for stretchiness and transparency. This could be a huge advancement in medicine.
9. The Heart
Our body’s strongest muscle is being created by scientists in a petri dish. That is right – a beating, functional heart is being reproduced. With the help of stem cell research, scientists are making new developments in the creation of petri-dish hearts. In a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, researchers used stem cells from skin and were able to use them to produce a mouse heart. Right now, the heart is not capable of fully pumping blood, and scientists need to find a way to utilize human heart cells. Yet, it is not the best practice to just steal someone else’s heart cells. So, the process will continue being researched.
Sure, scientists have already figured out how to make prosthetic hands. Yet, researchers are now looking into false hands that can even sense touch. A team at the University of Chicago is working on hands that send signals to the brain that you are touching something. This could be a huge game-changer in how we perceive prosthetics. A test on monkeys has shown great promise. Imagine amputees no longer feeling the “phantom limb” sensation, but instead having a sense of touch once again. The researchers will continue looking into the project by using simulation software to harness that sense of feel.
This is another limb that is not currently connected to the wiring of the brain. Scientists are crafting a bionic leg that connects to the nerves in the body, meaning that patients can use these legs with thought, rather than pure physical exertion. There is a fine line between taking a misstep and walking normally. Right now, the bionic thought-controlled leg is bulky and heavy, but researchers want to design a prototype that is capable of taking 10,000 steps without recharging. One company, Ossur, has designed a leg that reads subconscious thoughts thanks to a tiny chip implanted into patients’ muscle tissue.
6. The Brain
Is it possible to mimic the intelligence of humans? We have done it before with computers (think the IBM creation, Watson.) Now, scientists are trying to develop a brain that could help patients who suffer from brain damage or trauma. Researchers in Australia started with a base of stem cells and have developed brains that have the same mental capacity as a nine-month-old fetus. Right now, the brains are literally pea-sized and cannot think. Coined as “organoids,” scientists are trying to develop a closer connection between them and the different brain regions. Still, there is a long way to go before a fully-capable brain is possible in a laboratory.
Hearing aids have been around for decades, but what about an actual ear? Scientists are now using real cells from real ears to craft artificial ears. Wow. These hearing organs will be flexible and look highly realistic. Taking cells from animals, scientists have formed a collagen gel that can be molded. They use a 3-D printer to mold the gel into the shape of a human ear, and after a few days collecting nutrients in the lab, the ears are ready. The University of London has used these ears on children. The artificial ears are implanted under the skin of the arm to get blood vessels, and then attached to the side of the head.
Researchers at the University of Illinois are going one-step further than creating noses that mimic the sense of smell. These scientists want to develop a schnozz that can sniff-detect diseases. Using a sense of smell that is sensitive to bacteria, these noses could potentially diagnose illnesses. OK, so the new nose does not actually look like a nose quite yet. It is more like a chip that detects the spectrum of chemicals in the air. A sensor is triggered for levels that reach its calibration. Researchers hope to have this technology available to the mainstream within a few years.
People whose pancreas does not produce enough insulin run into many medical issues. Now, researchers are trying to help with an artificial pancreas that could be a life-saver for those with diabetes and pancreatic diseases. The artificial organ would mimic the automatic pumping of insulin in the body. It looks similar to an insulin pump, but the artificial pancreas also keeps track of your blood sugar, and most importantly, acts accordingly, pumping more if need. The artificial organ received approval from the FDA, and could be a promising new lease on life for diabetics. Scientists continue to monitor the organ to ensure top-quality accuracy.
We had monocles, bifocals, glass eyes – it is about time we had artificial eyes. That dream is becoming a closer reality. Scientists are studying how the body responds when the retina stops sending signals to the brain, preventing sight. Researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College are closer than ever to solving that complex coding that links photoreceptors and the brain. They have developed two artificial retinas and have tested them on animals, with success. The chips in the eyes sense images, convert them to signals, and wake up the brain to see. The trouble will be in moving the eye around in the eye socket in order to avoid a cross-eyed appearance.
It sounds like something out of a science fiction film: fingers that are their own USBs. An artificial finger that can store up to two gigabytes of data has been created by Jerry Jalava, a Finnish programmer who lost his finger in an accident. How does it work? As you might imagine, Jalava can peel back his fingernail and stick his finger into a USB jack. The artificial finger looks totally normal, until you take it off and store it in your computer. Jalava plans to further develop the digital digit by adding memory, an RFID tag, and a removable tip.