Bionics is the word Hollywood invented in the 1970s to explain the “Six Million Dollar Man.” Today biomimetic systems — implantable microelectronic devices that can restore lost function to complex neural systems while mimicking the biology — are being developed to restore sight, hearing, movement and memory to those who have suffered neural damage.
IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology magazine, September/October 2005.
“We have come a long way since the first human heart pacemaker was implanted in the late 1950’s,” says Michael Khoo, professor and chair of the Viterbi School’s Biomedical Engineering Department and holder of the Dwight C. and Hildegard E. Baum Chair. “In the not too distant future, we anticipate the availability of technology that mimics biological systems, like the spinal cord, which mediates incoming and outgoing motor command signals from our brain to our muscles and limbs.
“At the same time, the devices themselves are becoming simultaneously smaller, more efficient and more capable,” Khoo says. “These advances in design and technology are enabling us to make rapid progress in the ability to treat human neural disabilities.”
USC is on the cutting edge of neural implant technology. In a special issue of IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology (September/October 2005), USC ophthalmologists, biomedical engineers and guest editors James Weiland and Mark Humayun introduce the ideas behind biomimetics and showcase the work of many colleagues in the university’s Biomimetic Microelectronics Systems Engineering Research Center (BMES).
➢ A discussion of a retinal stimulating array — analogous to a retinal prosthesis — that may one day be capable of treating vision loss, such as age-related macular degeneration.
➢ A multi-authored paper on replacing the computational function of damaged brain regions, including work by USC’s Ted Berger on “brain chips,” which ultimately could be used to restore memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, or speech and language deficits resulting from stroke.
➢ Gerald Loeb reviews his work on BIONs™ — injectable neurostimulation devices about as big as a grain of rice. The wireless modules can transmit electrical signals into the peripheral nervous system to help people who suffer from a wide variety of neurological conditions, such as paralysis or incontinence.
Contributing authors include other members of USC’s Biomimetic Microelectronics Systems Engineering Research Center, the Department of Ophthalmology in the Keck School of Medicine at USC and the Viterbi School's Department of Biomedical Engineering, as well as the following:
➢ John Granacki, director of the Advanced Systems Division at USC’s ISI and research associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, who specializes in multi-processor system-on-chip architectures;
➢ Rahman Davoodi, research assistant professor in biomedical engineering, who studies man-machine systems for rehabilitation; Armand Tanguay, professor of electrical engineering and biomedical engineering; Vasilis Marmarelis, director of the USC Biomedical Simulations Resource;
➢ Roberta Brinton, professor of molecular pharmacology and toxicology at the USC Pharmaceutical Sciences Center, who has a joint appointment in the USC neuroscience program and the Viterbi School Department of Biomedical Engineering.
The September/October 2005 issue of IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology magazine, entitled “Biomimetic Systems,” is online at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/tocresult.jsp?isYear=2005&isnumber=32362&Submit32=Go+To+Issue
For more information about research at USC’s Biomimetic Microelectronics Systems (BMES) Center, go to http://bmes-erc.usc.edu/