Some will say that experience is the best teacher. And for people like Hugh Herr, such an opinion is really an axiom. Being an invalid without legs, he urgently needed suitable prostheses, but eventually, not finding them, he decided to develop them independently. Who would have thought that what Herr created would eventually become the most advanced bionic technology in the world.
Now a researcher and an expert in bionics is a co-founder of the Center for Extreme Bionics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a unique research laboratory that launched the idea of bringing bionics to a truly new level.
Since its founding in 2014, its key goal is to solve the problems of the widest range of physical limitations in humans through the development of advanced bionics. Currently, the center received a grant of $ 100 million and engaged in a five-year project. The main areas are the treatment of paralysis, depression, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, restoration of functions in people who underwent amputation of limbs, through bionic technologies.
To put it more simply, the center is engaged exclusively in the development of advanced technologies.
Despite the fact that modern prostheses can really be useful and can give amputees the opportunity to restore some of the lost motor functions, according to Herr and his colleagues, they can improve these devices by combining them with advanced neuronal implants. The advantage of this will be that the prostheses can directly communicate with nerve endings and muscles, which will make their control much simpler and actually turn them into a bionic continuation of the human body.
However, the team from MIT believes that neural implants can have unlimited potential, far beyond the limits of conventional prosthetics. For example, technology can be used as an alternative center of brain functions and used to treat neurological and mental illnesses.
Researchers also see a great potential in optogenetics and the development of a digital nervous system that can replace biological and help in the treatment of paralysis and Parkinson's disease. In addition, scientists believe that they can develop cells and tissues on the basis of which it will be possible to grow organs for the restoration or replacement of biological structures.
According to the statistics of the World Health Organization, 40-80 people per million cases of paralysis show up, but this is just one of the problems around which the Center for Extreme Bionics focuses. If the center's employees can find ways to use this technology to help all these people, then Guerre's dream of a world in which disability does not exist in principle can become a reality.