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Real-life "Six Million Dollar Man" could be just one "leap" away!!


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Tiny motor could pave way for real Six Million Dollar Man


Last updated at 11:36am on 25th October 2006


Scientists today unveiled a microscopic motor which could be the first step to the creation of a real life Six Million Dollar Man.

Dr Keith Firman, based at the University of Portsmouth, has developed the breakthrough molecular dynamo which could act as an interface between living organisms and the computer world.

The minuscule switch, called a nanoactuator, is built out of DNA and emits an electrical pulse which can be picked up by a computer.

The research team say the motor, which is about a thousandth the width of a human hair, could be used in the future as an interface between artificial limbs and computers.

This would mean that the fictional character Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors, in The Six Million Dollar Man could become a reality.

In the Seventies television show, Austin is severely injured in a crash and is rebuilt with his right arm, both legs and the left eye being replaced by bionic (cybernetic) implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far beyond the norm for humans.

Dr Firman said: "The possibilities are very exciting. The nanoactuator we have developed can be used as a communicator between the biological and silicon worlds.

"I could see it providing an interface between muscle and external devices, but it has to be pointed out that such an application is still 20 or 30 years away."

Dr Firman, working alongside other European researchers, has been awarded a £1.36 million European Commission grant under its New and Emerging Science ad Technology (Nest) initiative to fund the development of the nanoactuator.

He explained that the molecular switch comprises of a strand of DNA anchored in a minuscule channel of a microchip.

It generates electricity through a dynamo effect created by a magnetic bead and a biological motor powered by naturally-occurring energy sources found in living cells, he said.

This leads to electrical signals being created which could be sent to a computer which could control the tiny switch.

Dr Firman added the DNA switch had an immediate practical application in toxin detection, and could be used in a biodefence role as a biological sensor to detect airborne pathogens.

The nanoactuator has been patented by the University of Portsmouth and a patent application for the basic concepts of biosensing is pending.

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