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The $6 billion (hu)man is becoming reality, as bionics restores or expands humans' abilities

In the mid-1970s, when scientists in a popular TV series rebuilt a wounded, barely-living test pilot into the world's first bionic man, making him "better, stronger, faster," the field of medical bionics was the stuff of science fiction.

No longer. On April 3, at Experimental Biology 2006, some of the leading scientists in the rapidly expanding field of bionics explain how much of what was once fiction is today at least partial reality including electronically-powered legs, arms, and eyes like those given TV's Six Million Dollar Man 30-plus years ago.

The symposium on "The $6 Billion (Hu)Man" is part of the scientific program of the American Association of Anatomists. Bionics, a word that merges biology with electronics, means replacing or enhancing anatomical structures or physiological processes with electronic or mechanical components Unlike prostheses, the bionic implant actually mimics the original function, sometimes surpassing the power of the original organ or other body part. Bionics takes place at the interface between bioengineering and anatomy. The AAA scientific program at Experimental Biology also includes a symposium on tissue engineering, another means of replacing organs or organ function.

Dr. William Craelius, Rutgers University, created the first multi-finger prosthesis, combining new understanding of musculoskeletal signaling with advances in human-to-machine communication. In recent years, prosthetic limbs have transformed from the unwieldy designs of the last century into more life-like limb substitutes that give users a more intuitive feel for their adopted limb. The bionic hand system (Dextra) produced by Dr. Craelius and his colleagues uses existing nerve pathways to control individual computer-driven mechanical fingers. Dextra consists of a standard plastic socket and silicone sensor sleeve that encases an amputee's limb below the elbow. After a brief training period, operating the fingers is biomimeti
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Contact: Sarah Goodwin
ebpress@bellsouth.net
770-270-0989
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
3-Apr-2006


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