Monday, May 28, 2012

Bones, Joints, Bionics, and More

Science continues to struggle against the frailties of the human condition. Damaged limbs are a reality for many people, from kids on the playground to soldiers at war. There have been quite a few stories in the news over the past couple months looking at the new technologies on the horizon aiming to aid damage to the body.

Researchers at the University of Georgia are aiming to reduce the recovery period associated with broken bones from months to days. They are using adult stem cells that produce proteins involved in bone growth to stimulate the body to rapidly generate bone tissue.

For sufferers of arthritis, the Tampere University of Technology is working on replacements for the cushioning between the joints that could allow the joints themselves to remain intact in conditions that would usually require replacement with artificial ones. The implants are biodegradable and stimulate the body to produce material that eventually replaces the implant, essentially growing a new joint.

Rock climber and double-amputee Hugh Herr believes that even the total loss of limbs will not be a problem for much longer. It helps that he is also a bio-mechanical pioneer at MIT.

Over at Sandia National Labs, they are working on a technology that may help Mr. Herr reach his goals, a microscopic dimethicone structure that might be usable as a physical scaffold for interfacing mechanical devices with nerves in the body.

If all this limb fixing wasn't enough to give you encouragement for the future, how about news of a single drug that appears to hold promise in treating a wide variety of cancers? What about finding the mechanism by which Alzheimer's spreads within the brain?

If any one of these possibilities come to fruition, countless lives will be improved, and it's hard not to get a little hope from that.

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