Biocompatible Polymers and Prosthetic Nerves

We previously read about the Black Ops Biomask:

Now let’s take that biomask news to the next, logical level.  Specially trained soldiers get their brown eyes burned blue.  The biomask gives them a whole new face.  Fingerprints are replaced.  Previous DNA records are erased.

You now have a whole new identity mask for and old body that now becomes an anonymous killing machine.  An old body you trained and made into a killer becomes something new, but never innocuous, that you can send into the world, undercover in a civilian visage, to do your Black Ops work in the open without repercussion.  If the soldier gets identified, bring in the biomask to reconstruct a whole new face and recycle the old body again into the wilds.

Now we have breaking news that biocompatible polymers are a bridge — a “scaffold,” really — to attaching regenerating dead human nerves to inanimate prosthetics. The idea of this new bio-bridge is keen to help recreate the body part, but it makes me wonder why the military is always the standard bearer for new human healing inventions. Are they interested in fixing the wounded, or in just creating a super-able-bodied soldier from scratch?

The body’s own nerves are arguably the biggest barrier towards turning the dream of lifelike replacements into a reality. Peripheral nerves, severed by amputation, can no longer transmit or receive any of the myriad sensory signals we rely on every day. Trying to fuse them with robot limbs, to create a direct neural-prosthetic interface, is no easy task.

But now a team of scientists believe they’ve overcome that massive barrier. Their research is still in the early stages. But if successful, it’d yield artificial arms and legs that can move with agility; discern hot from lukewarm from freezing; and restore even the subtlest sensations of touch.

Should we celebrate these medical/military advances, or be cautious of them?  I know it sounds harsh, but once the military is done bludgeoning a body, it has no real further use for that soldier as our over-crowded, and closing, Veterans Hospitals testify to every day.

Does the military want to heal these soldiers in order to return them to active duty? Is the goal to make them whole, or better than they were? Are we compromising our fighting line by merely repairing bodies without fully putting the minds back together, too?

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