The world of prosthetics has continued to advance from rudimentary and awkward limbs, to new devices that are straight out of a super-hero movie. Scientists are currently hard at work to develop prosthetic limbs that can actually be controlled with the mind – almost as if giving patients a literally hand transplant. In the past, this was scientifically impossible, but a new clinical study showed promise in the application of bionic reconstruction and its human response.
The study involved three Austrian men who had sustained injuries leading to the loss of use in one hand. Before the actual transplant, each participant tested the bionic hand by strapping it to his injured area. This would allow for the volunteers to see how the robotic hand might function and to have sound decision to allow a full unit installed. This would include amputation and transplantation of muscles and nerves that would allow the patient to use signals from them to control the hand.
These bionic hands have been performing well thus far, and the patients are grateful to be involved in this first of its kind study. One volunteer, who lost the use of his right hand in a motorbike accident, says that while the hand is taking getting used to, it is allowing him to do things he hasn’t done in years, such as hold a sandwich and play with his kids.
While these results are promising, it will take some time before bionic limbs reach the mass market. Dr. Simon Kay, who performed England’s first hand transplant, said that the biggest limit that bionic hands has is the fact that the brain is too powerful for the device to handle. Dr. Kay believes that technology at this point cannot match the complexity of the human mind. However, other unrelated studies have shown promise in similar technology.
The only other downside is that the new bionic hand procedure is quite expensive, coming in around $34,000. This may be quite steep for most citizens, and most insurance companies would not cover this type of surgery. However, for people who are willing and able to test this device – there are still more clinical trials to come.
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