Bionics, in the field of medicine, means the replacement or enhancement of organs or other body parts by mechanical versions. It is the technique of replacing a limb or body part by an artificial limb or part that is electronically or mechanically powered. This artificial body part is embedded in the nervous system such that it responds to commands from the brain. ‘Neural Prosthetics’ is the scientifically appropriate term for these devices, but scientists have become more comfortable with the term- ‘Bionics’, made popular by science fiction writers.History of BionicsResearch in Bionics began long before it solidified as an organized academic field of study. In 1973, University of California, Los Angeles, computer scientist Jacques Vidal observed modulations of signals in the electroencephalogram of a patient and wrote in Annual Review of Biophysics and Bioengineering: “Can these observable electrical brain signals be put to work as carriers of information in man-computer communication or for the purpose of controlling such external apparatus as prosthetic devices or spaceships?” While we don’t yet have mind-controlled spaceships, neural control of a prosthetic device for medical applications is now becoming commonplace in labs around the world.The earliest example of bionics can be a bionic ear- a multi-channel cochlear implant which allows the recipient to hear by mimicking the function of the cochlea, was first used in 1978.1987: A patient with advanced Parkinson’s disease is fitted with a deep-brain electrical stimulation implant.2000: An artificial silicon retina is implanted into a human eye. The artificial retina is made from silicon microchips which contain thousands of tiny light-converting units.2001: Amputee Jesse Sullivan receives a fully robotic arm developed by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The arm has a nerve muscle graft which allows him to use his own thoughts to move the artificial limb.2004: Fully functional artificial hearts were developed.2007: Touch Bionics, a Scottish company, launched the first commercially available bionic hand, named “i-Limb Hand”. It has five independently powered digits that open and close around objects in a more natural and anatomically correct way than any previous hand prosthesis. The i-limb hand helped amputees across the world to improve their everyday lives with the increased function offered by its articulating digits. According to the firm, by May 2010 it has been fitted to more than 1,200 patients worldwide. Bionics TodayToday’s bionics will not allow users to run 60 miles an hour or rip off steal doors, etc. What’s important in today’s bionics is how it allows an amputee to think about their bionic/prosthesis as part of their normal body. Recent advances in robotics technology made it possible to create prosthetics that can duplicate the natural function of human organs.Given below are few instances of applications of Bionics in today’s world.1. Zac Vawter, of Seattle, US, fitted with the world’s first Bionic leg, walked up 2,000 steps with it. He controlled his leg with his mind. Sending instructions from his brain, down through nerves that communicated with his mechanical limb. “It’s exciting,” Vawter told CBS Chicago while showing off his “bionic” leg at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). “It’s neat. It’s intuitive. It puts energy into me walking and moving around.”2. Another bionic device has shown that the marriage of mind and machine can be both powerful and enduring, having been implanted in nearly 200,000 people around the world during the past 30 years. That device is the cochlear implant, and Aiden Kenny is amongst its recipients. Tammy Kenny, his mother, remembers when she learned that her baby was beyond the help of hearing aids.”I would just hold him in my arms and cry,” she says, “knowing he couldn’t hear me. How would he ever get to know me? One time, my husband banged pots together, hoping for a response.” Aiden never heard the noise.He hears banging pots now. In February 2009 surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital snaked thin lines with 22 electrodes into each cochlea, the part of the inner ear that normally detects sound vibrations. In Aiden, a microphone picks up sounds and sends signals to the electrodes, which pass them directly to the nerves.3. Bionic Eyes soon followed bionic ear. Ray Flynn, 80, has dry age-related macular degeneration which has led to the total loss of his central vision. He is using a retinal implant which converts video images from a miniature video camera worn on his glasses. He can now make out the direction of white lines on a computer screen using the retinal implant.” The implant, known as the Argus II and manufactured in the US by the company Second Sight Medical Products, had been used previously in patients who were blind as the result of the rare inherited degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa. 4. Edinburgh-based Mohammed Abad, lost his penis in a car crash aged six. Mohammed, now 44, became the first man in the world to get a bionic penis in 2012.5. Another demonstration of the power of bionics was a spinal cord–injured patient using a brain-controlled exoskeleton to kick off the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.6. A completely artificial heart was developed by SynCardia and has already been used in around 1200 patients awaiting a heart transplant. The device is a battery powered, self-contained total replacement system. 7. This last and the second most widely used bionic device after cochlear implant is the Bionic Hand- with each finger driven by its own motor. Inside of the moulded forearm are two electrodes that respond to muscular signals in the residual limb: Sending a signal to one electrode opens the hand and to the other closes it. Activating both allows the user to rotate the wrist an unnerving 360 degrees.Touch Bionics, the maker of this mechanical wonder, calls it the i-limb and different upgraded versions of it are being produced every year. ConclusionThe use of bionics could see us enter a phase of designed evolution, where technology makes up for our shortfalls and the delicacy of the human body. We could create eyes that saw more of the colour spectrum, cochlear implants that heard beyond our current wavelengths, limbs that could scale mountains and dust that can detect illness. We can’t really know what we will become but we do know that we are constantly advancing and that with the application of Bionics, the sky really is our limit.