Former Woman Marine has feeling with bionic arm

Telegraph:

Soldiers who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan have been given new hope after doctors fitted a former US marine with a "bionic arm" that can be controlled by thought alone.

Scientists who developed the mechanical arm are now working with other soldiers who have been injured during fighting.

They hope that they can improve the technique so it can be available to all those who lose limbs.

Last year the research team fitted former US marine Claudia Mitchell with the bionic limb after she lost her arm in a motorcycle accident.

The new arm allowed her to regain the sensation of having her lost hand touched, and gave her the ability to carry out simple tasks such as cutting up food, eating a banana and doing the washing up.

She could perform tasks four times quicker than with a conventional prosthetic arm.

The scientists, led by Professor Todd Kuiken from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, believe that as their methods become more sophisticated amputees will be able to carry out even more tasks.

Prof Kuiken is now working at Brooke Army Medical Centre, at Fort Houston in Texas, and the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington.

"We're excited to move forward in doing this surgery with our soldiers someday. We've been able to demonstrate remarkable control of artificial limbs," said Prof Kuiken.

He added that the method "provides a lot of hope".

The technique - called Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR) - involves re-routing nerves that once controlled the patient's arm to a patch on the chest, where they grow into muscles.

Electrodes on the surface of the chest skin pick up brain signals from the nerves and send signals to operate the artificial arm.

When a patient such as Miss Mitchell thinks about moving her hand or arm, the nerves react as if they were still leading all the way down her arm and into the elbow and fingers. If someone touches the patch of skin on her chest, it feels as if they are touching her hand.

...


We are on verge of even greater breakthroughs in human bionics similar to those we are experiencing with robotics on the battle field and above it. Much of it takes advantage of computers and processors as well as advances in the understanding of nerves and muscles in the body. This Woman Marine may do more than she knows to help those wounded on the battlefield. You can click on the image for a larger view. It should be noted that these advances took place in a free market atmosphere and not in any national health care system.

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