The New Stuff

Science Takes Next Big Step Towards “Cyborg” Tech


Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times reported earlier last month that scientists have moved one step closer to developing the technology which might one day soon allow paraplegics to walk again. Webster's defines Cyborg as a “bionic human,” while Wikipedia's definition describes it as “a being with both biological and artificial parts.” The term Cyborg is credited to Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline who published a report in 1960 outlining the possible applications of such a technology within the context of space exploration.

Since that time, however, the idea has been all but entirely relegated to the realm of science fiction, having been the subject of a literally countless number of science fiction books, films, and television programs.

However, a recent breakthrough made by the Walk Again Project, a non-profit organization committed to seeing science-fantasy become a reality may actually change all that.

Leading the international contingency of well respected medical researchers is Duke University neurologist, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis. Nicolelis appears to have made an extraordinary breakthrough in this area by solving the puzzle of how to highjack the body's neural pathways allowing the brain to establish a communication link with a prosthetic device.

Initial experiments using monkeys as test subjects have been so promising as to prompt the team of scientists, engineers, and physiologists working on the Walk Again project to shoot for a working prototype which they hope to unveil during the 2014 World Cup.

Nicolelis and his team are hoping to fit a quadriplegic with a full "prosthetic exoskeleton" allowing him or her the ability to walk out onto the field in front of an international audience of millions just prior to the tournaments first match.

Nicolelis and his team have garnered tremendous support from the medical research community including those researchers whose work their experiments have been built upon. The Walk Again Project's most recent studies were published within the academically prestigious science journal Nature, another indication of the legitimacy of the researcher's claims.

And so while, for many, it has been difficult to imagine a time when—if ever—such seemingly far-out technology could move from the world of fantasy to the world of reality, it appears that time may actually have arrived.

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