The line between Science and Science Fiction is blurring. Prosthetic limbs have been around for hundreds of years, from the peg legs of pirates and civil war soldiers, to the old claw like replacement arms we, as humans have tried to regain our mobility and functionality after tragic events. In Science Fiction moves such as Star Wars seem to have been to gold standard when it comes to the idea of prosthetics. Human looking limbs that replace 100% of functionality and require no learning curve. We haven’t gotten there quite yet, but we have come a long way from peg legs.
In recent years we have developed prosthetic legs that have such a natural feel and are functional enough that they have allowed their users to win races against, able-bodied people. Replacement limbs are also making strides in looking more natural. Instead of claw style grabbers we have more realistic looking hands and arms.
We are approaching the point were the Star Wars like dreams of limb replacement is becoming a reality. Through the rapid strides in robotic technology and the medical science advancements in neuroscience we are closer than ever before. Claudia Mitchell (seen below) lost her arm in a motor cycle accident, her prosthesis, a prototype developed by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is one of the most advanced prosthetic arms developed to date. She was the first person ever to receive not only a bionic replacement limb, but one that was able to be operated by thought alone. Her replacement limb senses the basic nerve signals from the stump of her arm and translates that through the use of a wearable computer to control the arm. However, since she received her bionic prosthesis, even more leaps have been made.
Jan Scheuermann, a 52-year-old quadriplegic woman has for the first time in 13 years since a degenerative brain and nerve disease (Multiple sclerosis) cost her the use of all 4 limbs been give the ability to feed herself. This remarkable feat has been accomplished by two 96-channel intracortical micro electrodes implants in the motor cortex of her brain (the center of the brain that controls motor control). Since her surgery she has trained for 13 weeks, 4 hours a day, 3 days a week, to be able to control the arm and perform simple tasks with it. While this isn’t quite as simple as the prosthetics like Luke Skywalker or Anakin Skywalker had in Star Wars, it is a huge leap in that direction. This gives hope to the otherwise hopeless that one day, those that have lost limbs in battle, due to an accident or are born unable to use their own limbs, may one day be able to leave normal happy lives. We leave you with a video of Jan Scheuermann and her prosthetic arm.
- Mind-controlled permanently-attached prosthetic arm could revolutionize prosthetics (gizmag.com)
- First Neurally Controlled, Powered Prosthetic Limb Is 2,109 Steps Closer To Realization (prnewswire.com)
- dad gets t hi-tech bionic arm (thesun.co.uk)
- Springs in the Step: Prosthetic Foot Mimics Ankle’s Movement (gajitz.com)
- Implantable, thought-controlled robotic arm is changing the lives of amputees (w/video) (nanowerk.com)
- The Hard Road Back: Prosthetic Arms a Complex Test for Amputees (nytimes.com)
- New hope for military amputees wary of prosthetic arms (staradvertiser.com)
- Tentacle Prosthetic Wraps and Curls Where Hands Used to Twist and Grab (ohgizmo.com)
- Vibrotactile Sensory Substitution Elicits Feeling of Ownership of an Alien Hand (plosone.org)
- Prosthetic finger could be a boon (coolest-gadgets.com)