March 7, 2009

The True Bionic Man

Do you remember the TV series “A man of the 6 million dollars” with Lee Majors, and the saga with the Bionic Woman, and the Bionic Dog (a beautiful german shepherd dog), I remember one chapter in which the bionic man fights with the Saskuatch, two incredible characters. Well, now with the most advance technology the dream comes true!.

This is one of the most amazing invents in technology and medicine. In the past 20 years, biotechnology has become the fastest-growing area of scientific research, with new devices going into clinical trials at a breakneck pace. Now there are available three awasomes miracles of the engineering: the bionic hand, the bionic arm and the bionic eye, remember the eye of Lee Majors in the TV serie with telescopic sight, wau!. All these devices are real and try to imitate to live person with real organs.

The bionic hands was created by a company called Touch Bionics, based in Livingston, Scotland, . They developed a fantastic product of engineering: i-LIMB Hand, an intelligent prosthetic hand with 5 mechanical fingers that you can buy for only $18,000 USD, since 2007. This is a wonderful invent.

Touch Bionics is a leading developer of advanced upper-limb prosthetics (ULP). One of the two products now commercially available from the company, the i-LIMB Hand, is a first-to-market prosthetic device with five individually powered digits. This replacement hand looks and acts like a real human hand and represents a generational advance in bionics and patient care.

The Touch Bionics i-LIMB Hand was developed using leading-edge mechanical engineering techniques and is manufactured using high-strength plastics. The result is a next-generation prosthetic device that is lightweight, robust and highly appealing to both patients and healthcare professionals.
Over 200 people have been benefit with this technology, included ex-soldiers from Irak’s war. But this equipment was made in Scotland in 1963, 50 years ago and it was created to replace limbs in patients with effects of Talidomide, an important teratogenic drug. The real idea is offer a multi articulated hand that simulates a real live hand. This invent won the award of The Royal Academy of Engineering of the UK. The hand has two unique features: 1) Articulated fingers that have a micromotor in each hand that allows to move independently the fingers and; 2) The thumb can rotate 90 degrees like a human thumb.

Even other organizations have developed most advanced hands, the i-LIMB is the first commercial hand available for the patients. This product doesn’t require surgery because is controlled by a unique, highly intuitive control system that uses a traditional two-input myoelectric (muscle signal) to open and close the hand’s life-like fingers. Myoelectric controls utilize the electrical signal generated by the muscles in the remaining portion of the patient’s limb. This signal is picked up by electrodes that sit on the surface of the skin. Existing users of basic myoelectric prosthetic hands are able to quickly adapt to the system and can master the device’s new functionality within minutes.

However, a problem was present, the sense of touch. Todd Kuiken et al., developed a system to establish the sense of touch again in mutilated patient, linked the remains nerves of the stump, where the prosthetic arms are located, with the thoracic nerves. His results was published in the PNAS: Redirection of cutaneous sensation from the hand to the chest skin of human amputees with targeted reinnervation PNAS 2007 104:20061-20066; published online before print November 28, 2007, doi:10.1073/pnas.0706525104.

Now, we have a hand with finger movements and sense of touch.

On the other hand, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago introduced the first woman to be fitted with its "bionic arm" technology. A patient, who had her left arm amputated at the shoulder after a traffic accident, can now grab a drawer pull with her prosthetic hand by thinking, "grab drawer pull." That a person can successfully control multiple, complex movements of a prosthetic limb with his or her thoughts opens up a world of possibility for amputees The "bionic arm" technology is possible primarily because of two facts of amputation. First, the motor cortex in the brain (the area that controls voluntary muscle movements) is still sending out control signals even if certain voluntary muscles are no longer available for control; and second, when doctors amputate a limb, they don't remove all of the nerves that once carried signals to that limb. So if a person's arm is gone, there are working nerve stubs that end in the shoulder and simply have nowhere to send their information. If those nerve endings can be redirected to a working muscle group, then when a person thinks "grab handle with hand," and the brain sends out the corresponding signals to the nerves that should communicate with the hand, those signals end up at the working muscle group instead of at the dead end of the shoulder.

Rerouting those nerves is not a simple task. Dr. Todd Kuiken of the RIC developed the procedure, which he calls "targeted muscle reinnervation." Surgeons basically dissect the shoulder to access the nerve endings that control the movements of arm joints like the elbow, wrist and hand. Then, without damaging the nerves, they redirect the endings to a working muscle group. In the case of the RIC's "bionic arm," surgeons attach the nerve endings to a set of chest muscles. It takes several months for the nerves to grow into those muscles and become fully integrated. The end result is a redirection of control signals: The motor cortex sends out signals for the arm and hand through nerve passageways as it always did; but instead of those signals ending up at the shoulder, they end up at the chest.

To use those signals to control the bionic arm, the RIC setup places electrodes on the surface of the chest muscles. Each electrode controls one of the six motors that move the prosthetic arm's joints. When a person thinks "open hand," the brain sends the "open hand" signal to the appropriate nerve, now located in the chest. When the nerve ending receives the signal, the chest muscle it's connected to contracts. When the "open hand" chest muscle contracts, the electrode on that muscle detects the activation and tells the motor controlling the bionic hand to open. And since each nerve ending is integrated into a different piece of chest muscle, a person wearing the bionic arm can move all six motors simultaneously, resulting in a pretty natural range of motions for the prosthesis.
Now, we have a hand with finger movements, sense of touch and whole upper limb.

It’s not enough even. A group of scientist of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, one of the world's leading centers for eye health, developed a bionic ete to allow blind people see. It isn’t fantastic, is it?

A training system called BrainPort is letting people with visual and balance disorders bypass their damaged sensory organs and instead send information to their brain through the tongue. Now, a company called Second Sight has received FDA approval to begin U.S. trials of a retinal implant system that gives blind people a limited degree of vision.

The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System can provide sight, the detection of light, to people who have gone blind from degenerative eye diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Ten percent of people over the age of 55 suffer from various stages of macular degeneration. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disease that affects about 1.5 million people around the globe. Both diseases damage the eyes' photoreceptors, the cells at the back of the retina that perceive light patterns and pass them on to the brain in the form of nerve impulses, where the impulse patterns are then interpreted as images. The Argus II system takes the place of these photoreceptors. The second incarnation of Second Sight's retinal prosthesis consists of five main parts: a digital camera that's built into a pair of glasses. It captures images in real time and sends images to a microchip. A video-processing microchip that's built into a handheld unit. It processes images into electrical pulses representing patterns of light and dark and sends the pulses to a radio transmitter in the glass. A radio transmitter that wirelessly transmits pulses to a receiver implanted above the ear or under the eye. A radio receiver that sends pulses to the retinal implant by a hair-thin implanted wire.

Well, almost complete our bionic man with: a hand with finger movements, sense of touch, whole upper limb and a bionic eye!

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