Researchers at University of Minnesota are seeking to improve the functionality of prosthetics by introducing human tissue into the technology thereby creating ‘bionic prosthetics.’ Engineer Michael McAlpine has taken advantage of the regenerative properties stem cells and advances in 3D printing to create bionic prosthetics that are able to send and receive signals and impulses that more closely mimic natural body parts. Utilizing the technique, McAlpine has created a bionic ear that can detect and perceive sound, as well as a retina that has photodetectors translate light into electrical signals. Combining prosthetics, 3D printing and stem cells to more closely replicate the appearance and functionality of human tissues and body parts should significantly improve the quality of life of patients who currently have conventional prosthetics that do not resemble the form nor function of the lost limb.Though it is still in the animal trials, this technology represents a trend in regenerative medicine that would help thousands of patients who have missing limbs, particularly combat veterans, but it also has the potential to address more permanent disabilities such as blindness or deafness. Additionally, by using the patient’s own stem cells, the prosthetics can be catered to the individual and posing virtually no risk of rejection.
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