Sci-Friday Technology

Rochester, New York – The Capital of Cyborg Nation

If you happen to follow me on Twitter or any of the other blogs I write for, then you’ve undoubtedly (and perhaps, unwillingly) been privy to the details of my quest for an IUD. For those of you who don’t, I’ll keep this brief. Long story short, I am unmarried and have not yet had a baby, which for all intents and purposes should have nothing to do with anything as far as choices of contraception are concerned, especially in the year 2012, but unfortunately it does. After what has seemed like an eternity, but in all actuality just a mere 2 months of jumping through hoops, I finally received my IUD insertion earlier this week.

Never being one to truly understand shame and always being an open book with all my friends, males and females alike, I happily shared this victorious news with anyone who would listen. The day of my insertion, I received a good luck text from a male friend of mine, assuring me I would be fine and soon have “the best robotic cyborg uterus ever.” To say the least, this unconventional compliment got me thinking.

A cyborg, short for cybernetic organism, by definition, is a living creature having both biological and artificial parts. The term cyborg is typically applied when the organism demonstrates enhanced abilities due to its technology from these inorganic parts. I would definitely say my IUD is giving me superior abilities compared to someone who doesn’t have one, so by the loosest definition of the word, sure, I am in fact a cyborg – but so are many others.  Metal rods, pacemakers, cochlear implants – the list goes on and on.  Are we living in a Cyborg Nation? We might be – and Rochester might just be the capital.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have been on the cutting edge of implant technology since the 1990s with Dr. Arthur Moss. Moss led a series of trials leading to a new way to treat heart failure with implantable devices.  These devices, known as implantable  cardioverter defibrillators or ICDs can detect potentially fatal arrhythmias and shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. ICDs have significantly reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death by 31 percent in heart attack survivors and are now implanted in hundreds of thousands of patients each year, including former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney.

More recently, another URMC researcher, Dr. Spencer Rosero, has received a patent for an implantable chip that can monitor physiological and chemical changes in real-time, such as changes in blood protein levels in a patient with heart failure. This biochip is designed to send a wireless signal, which could be used to alert a physician or to interact with another device, such as an insulin pump or a pacemaker. In his patent application, Rosero described the possibility of using the technology to treat patients with a variety of disorders, including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and hypertension.

Sure, these implants are used to correct something that is wrong (or in my case, prevent something until I’m ready!) but I don’t think anyone could pose that they aren’t giving us a one up on where we’d be without them, or at the very least, making our lives a little easier. On that note, I say cyborgs unite! It’s a lovely day to be a cyborg in Rochester.

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By Jillian Seaton

Jillian is a recovering sorority girl/cheerleader and an aspiring trophy wife/crazy cat lady who somehow found herself in the magical land of auto dealership marketing and family portraits. Her true passions in life are writing, whiskey, music (especially good ol' rock 'n roll), and cheese. Jillian's life goals include saving the world from cancer and becoming the best astronaut ever.