Skip Navigation Bar
NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

The Bionic Man

Meet the Bionic Man

Illustration of Bionic Man walking

The bionic man can be found at man. For more info, videos, and other resources on biotechnology and medical imaging, visit

"Bionic Man" Showcases Medical Research

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) recently launched the "Bionic Man" an interactive web tool showcasing the latest research advances in biotechnology.

It features fourteen technologies being developed by NIBIB-supported researchers. Examples include a powered prosthetic leg that helps users achieve a more natural gait, a wireless brain-computer interface that lets people with paralyzed legs and arms control computer devices or robotic limbs using only their thoughts, and a micro-patch that delivers vaccines painlessly and doesn't need refrigeration.

Illustration of electrodes connected to brain

Flexible Electrodes Record Brain's Activity

Flexible electrode array records brain activity from the surface of the brain and could be used to control robotic arms or provide real-time information about brain states.
Photo courtesy of Joseph Hippensteel, University of Wisconsin

Three prostheses for arm and fingers

Implantable Sensors for Prosthesis Control

Implantable myoelectric (electrical properties of muscle) sensors detect nerve signals above a missing limb. These signals can then be used to
move a prosthesis in a more natural way, such as enabling individual finger control.
Photo courtesty of Richard Weir, University of Colorado, Denver

Two men climbing stairs, one with prosthetic leg

Robotic Leg Prosthesis

This powered robotic prosthesis senses a person's next move and provides powered assistance to achieve a more natural gait.
Photo courtesty of John Russell, Vanderbilt University

Two men, one with tongue drive stud in tongue

Tongue Drive System

Tongue Drive System helps individuals with severe paralysis navigate their environment using only tongue movements.
Photo Courtesy of Maysam Ghovanloo, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew

"The NIBIB Bionic Man showcases some amazing technological advances. It is designed to teach us about the inventive ways in which scientists and engineers have developed methods for improved detection and treatment of a variety of illnesses. All of these innovative advances have been supported by public funding and provide specific examples of the public's return on investment in biomedical research. Our overarching goal is to have a transformative impact on the health and well-being of the nation."
—Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D., is Director of the NIH's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

Other Innovative Advances

Cartilage Regeneration

A light sensitive biogel and biological adhesive help new cartilage grow and become functional.

Blood Clot Emulator

A blood clot emulator can be used to optimize ventricular assist devices to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Artificial Kidney

An artificial kidney could be used in place of kidney dialysis for treatment of end-stage kidney disease.

Microneedle Patch

This microneedle patch delivers vaccines painlessly and doesn't require refrigeration.

Interstitial Pressure Sensor

Interstitial pressure sensor could help doctors determine optimal times for delivering chemotherapy/radiation to cancer patients.

Glucose-Sensing Contacts

Glucose-sensing contacts could provide a non-invasive solution for continuous blood sugar monitoring.

Wireless Brain-Computer Interface

The wireless brain-computer interface records and transmits brain activity wirelessly and could allow people with paralysis to use their thoughts to control robotic arms or other devices.

Synthetic Tissue Adhesive

A synthetic glue modeled after an adhesive found in nature could be used to repair tissues in the body.

Opening the Blood Brain Barrier with Ultrasound

Focused ultrasound could be used to temporarily open the blood brain barrier to let gene therapy treatments reach the brain.

Spinal Stimulation for Paralysis

Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord is being used in individuals with paralysis to help restore voluntary movement and other functions.

To Find Out More

Fall 2014 Issue: Volume 9 Number 3 Page 24-25