Medical bionic devices use electric signals to stimulate nerves and muscles damaged by disease or injury. Bionics research scientists work closely with biomedical, electrical and mechanical engineers and clinicians to develop innovative devices to treat people with a range of conditions.

The medical bionics industry is growing rapidly. Pioneering work has resulted in the successful development of implantable devices to help with a range of conditions with more potential projects in the pipeline.

Bionic devices can improve a person’s life

Bionic devices may assist people with:

  • hearing loss – the cochlear implant and other ear implants can restore or improve hearing loss
  • vision impairment – the bionic eye helps people detect shapes and movement while other implantable devices may slow down the progression of retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa
  • cardiac disorders – pacemakers assist the heart to maintain a regular rhythm
  • epilepsy – brain implants can measure brain activity and monitor seizures
  • stroke – medical bionic implants may help with functional recovery by changing unaffected parts of the brain to compensate for damaged areas
  • Parkinson’s disease – bionic devices in the brain block nerve signals to relieve symptoms such as tremors and impaired balance and coordination
  • Crohn’s disease – stimulation of an abdominal nerve helps to reduce inflammatory cell activity in the gut
  • rheumatoid arthritis – nerves are stimulated to produce an anti-inflammatory response
  • type 2 diabetes –a nerve is stimulated to trigger the release of hormones to lower blood sugar levels
  • urinary incontinence – electrical devices may help restore bladder control
  • mental health disorders – brain stimulation may alter brain function and improve mental health conditions.

Image caption: Simplicity of Sound – Cochlear implant on a child’s head.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The institutes listed below are currently researching the areas of Bionics, and more information about their discoveries can be found by visiting their websites.

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