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Miracles Of Science

June 13, 2012
Wetzel Chronicle

In 1973, Lee Majors played Colonel Steve Austin, in the TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man. After an accident, Majors' character was repaired using bionic parts. The replacement parts included two new legs and an arm. He was also given a bionic left eye. These engineered replacements parts enabled him to run faster and see better than with his original parts. Of course the whole concept of bionic eye and limbs in 1973 were just something of TV fiction.

Eleven years later, an android from the future played by Arnold Schwarzenegger returned through time to prevent Sarah Connors from messing up their dark future world. The total engineered creature was almost indestructible with a mechanical skeleton covered in artificial skin. The futuristic creature moved and looked like any of us. Well, only if you are an Olympic body builder and your best movie line was "I'll be back".

In those days, science fiction foretold of body parts being replaced by mechanical parts. What seemed unbelievable except on the big screen is slowly beginning to become reality. Today scientists, engineers, and doctors are working to make science fiction into science fact when it comes to manufactured body parts.

Prosthetic limbs have long been around to replace lost arms and legs. Captain Ahab walked his decks with a whale bone for a replacement leg in Melville's classic. Lost arms were made somewhat useful again by manufactured devices with different ends to help perform some of what the lost arm and hand may have done.

Being anything more than manmade prosthesis was far beyond the reality of the day for most of mankind existence. Today new technology is giving people the hope of regaining some of the abilities they may have lost from an accident, injury, or birth.

Newer, light weight materials along with power supplies that grow smaller each day help advance artificial limbs beyond the science fiction of yesterday. Micro computer components can now be imbedded into muscles and taught to send tiny electronic signals to mechanical arms and legs. With training, muscles can be taught to signal a prosthetic limb to move much like the real arm or leg. In time, it offers hope for many to regain a functioning limb.

Returning veterans who lost limbs are being given a chance in VA hospitals to try new prosthetic technology. Is it as simple as they made it look on TV nearly 40 years ago? No, not yet, but veterans and doctors are working every day to find answers.

Perhaps one of the most notable replacement parts that have been around since the early fifties is the mechanical heart. Doctors and scientists have worked on devices to replace damaged hearts and give patients hope and time. Early devices had supporting machinery that may have looked like a milking machine. Today vast improvements have been made since those early devices.

Patients can now be fitted with artificial hearts to help their own until a replacement can be found. Still research goes on that someday a bioengineered heart can prolong someone's life. We can also hope it will give the recipient back their quality of life.

Today researchers have found ways to improve many different medical problems. Diabetics can now have insulin delivered to help control sugar levels with computerized pumps. To help improve some hearing, electronics implants can now begin to help some with hearing loss. Nanotechnology is using cutting edge science technology that can be so small it cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is hoped someday to use these tiny devices to be able to deliver targeted treatment to cancers or repair deep internal injuries. Are these the things of yesterday's science-fiction? They once were, but science has made the impossible now possible.

When Colonel Steve Austin looked through his bionic left eye and saw things that no one else could, that was TV make believe. But today, science is taking the first steps to make reality of his fictional vision abilities.

Researchers from Aalto University in Finland along with University of Washington have successfully created a new unique contact lens. The lens has the potential for the wearer to see text or other important information. For those who need to monitor medical information such as blood sugar or heart condition, it could give updates to its owner. The lens with future development will allow its wearer to see a heads up display similar to what is used in modern jet fighters.

For now, the contact lens can show only one pixel of light within the lens for the wearer to see. But this is only the first step toward its real potential. The prototype contact lens proves to its developers they are on the right track.

One of the truly amazing things is the device gathers it's power with a tiny silicon and radio integrated circuit. The display itself is within a transparent sapphire chip that contains an LED.

No human as of yet has tried the new device. A rabbit was the first subject and the test on him was deemed a success. I don't know if anyone asked the rabbit what he thought about the scientific breakthrough.

Much more is needed to be done before you go to your optometrist to get the new digital contact lenses. Most likely it will be years before it becomes available for everyday use. But science has proven it can be done.

Science and technology are moving towards a world where man can truly repair himself. With each new breakthrough life and its quality can be extended. It seems only yesterday that someone 60 was the definition of old. Today the average life span seems to increase each day with the help of science and medicine. I can see only one thing that may slow our ever increasing ability to redefine old is a letter in the mail from your insurance company, "Claim Denied". Science will find the answer for many of man's physical problems. But if the answers are beyond peoples financial ability, perhaps the real question will be much more difficulty to answer as I look Thru the Lens.



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