Many of today's bionic limbs are "myoelectric," controlled by electrodes attached to theresidual limb that pick up impulses generated when the wearer consciously contracts that muscle. Those systems aren't without their challenges though, such as a disruption in the signal when the wearer sweats or the prosthetic and sensors shift around on the skin. Now, University of Michigan bioengineer Paul Cederna and his colleagues have developed what may be a more durable approach: they implant the wearer with new "minimuscles," tiny muscle grafts from their own tissue that are monitored by electrodes inserted into the skin. From Science:
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The researchers isolate bundles of fibers from each of the major nerves in the arm and wrap each bundle in a chunk of muscle tissue roughly the size of a paper clip, often harvested from the thigh. The process basically creates a new set of finger muscles inside a person’s forearm or bicep.
Because wrapping nerves this way also relieves certain types of pain common after an amputation, hundreds of people have already had the procedure—but without the wire implants that could record from the muscles to control a prosthesis. In a new study out today in Science Translational Medicine, Cederna and UM neural engineer Cynthia Chestek describe the first test of that control step.
In three participants with amputations at different points along the arm who already had muscle implants, wires inserted through the skin near the muscle grafts could easily pick up their electrical signals, the researchers report. Even with an amputation up near the shoulder, a computer could interpret which tiny muscles were contracting, and by how much, to isolate different intended movements—a flex of the pointer finger versus the thumb, for example.
This is only missing Max, the Bionic dog. Read the rest
Maker collective Hackerloop modified a Nerf gun into a bionic prosthetic for their friend Nicolas Huchet. He fires the gun via EMG (electromyography) sensors that detect when he tenses his forearm muscles.
"It all started with jokes about the fact that it was too easy for us to win over him in a nerf battle, as he’s missing his right hand," writes "tinkerer in chief" Valentin Squirelo.
DIY hardware is not just about temperature sensors and automated door locks anymore. Every hardware component used to make this gun can be found online.
“Electromyography is a great way to make the body communicate with hardware. We used it to detect electrical impulses and translated them into instructions for our gun. You could think of a thousand other uses.
You could think it’s not the first problem to solve for people with disabilities, but in fact being able to have fun with your friends with these wonderful toys is also a real game changer”.
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On Friday, surgeons installed a "click-on robotic arm" on a patient in the Netherlands. The wearer controls the robot arm by thought alone. Myoelectric sensors in a bracelet worn on the upper arm measure muscle signals that are transmitted to the prosthetic arm via Bluetooth. From ScienceDaily:
Through an opening in the skin, the patient "clicks" the prosthesis onto a metal rod in the bone. Because the prosthesis connects directly to the skeleton, a prosthesis socket is no longer necessary. This ensures that it does not slip off, avoids skin problems, and makes it very easy to put on and take off...
The nerves that controlled the muscles in the hand and the underarm before the amputation are meticulously attached to parts of the muscles in the upper arm stump. By connecting the nerves to the muscle, the muscle acts like an amplifier of the nerve signal...
The surgeries are followed by a rehabilitation period, so that the patient can learn to contract the muscles in their upper arm by using their thoughts. If the patient imagines opening and closing their hand, the muscles in the upper arm contract.
"Click-on arm prosthesis controlled by patient's thoughts" (ScienceDaily) Read the rest
Maker Evan Booth transformed a Keurig K350 coffeemaker into a "bionic" hand. As William Gibson once wrote, "the street finds its own uses for things."
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In 1959, physicians at New York's Maimonides Hospital implanted this dog with a radio receiver in its chest, part of an "auxiliary heart" system that would support a failing ticker. From the March 9, 1959 issue of LIFE:
The booster heart, developed by Drs. Adrian Kantrowitz and William McKinnon (of New York's Maimonides Hospital) is made by lifting up half of the diaphragm muscle and wrap it around the aorta, the body's main artery. Inside the chest a small radio receiver, part of an electronic system that detects and transmits the actual heart's beat, picks up the heart's rhythm and sends it by electric signals down a nerve to the diaphragm flap, making it squeeze the aorta rhythmically. This action, like a heartbeat, pumps the blood.
Kantrowitz, a pioneer in heart transplants, died in 2008.
(via Weird Universe)
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Last year, Mohammed Abad, 43, whose penis was destroyed when he was hit by a car as a child, received an 8-inch implant involving two tubes that inflate his reconstructed flesh phallus when he pumps it up via a button in his scrotum. The implant was the culmination of years of reconstructive surgery. These kinds of implants are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction. Abad has now announced that he will soon lose his virginity to a sex worker named Charlotte Rose, 35.
“I have waited long enough for this — it’ll be a great start to the new year," Abad said. "My penis is working perfectly now so I just want to do it. I’m really excited. I can’t wait for it to finally happen.”
Rose will travel from London to see Abad in Edinburgh.
"I am so honoured that he chose me to take his virginity," she said. "We plan to have a dinner date so we can get to know each other and then two hours of private time. I’m not charging him.”
(The British Journal)
More: "Man's 'Bionic Penis' Is Not So Rare After All" (LiveScience) Read the rest
This is a flexible mesh circuitry that Harvard nanotechnologists have injected via syringe into the heads of live mice to test a new way of monitoring brain signals from the inside. Read the rest
When I was young in the 1970s, I was blown away by photos of the 1950s battery-powered "bionic" arm invented by IBM engineer SW Alderson. The technology is now more than 60 years old and it still looks futuristic to me. Read the rest
Medical historian Thomas Schlich wrote a fascinating essay for CNN about the history of prosthetic body parts and the "Bionic Men of World War I." From his article:
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In all nations involved in the war an emerging generation of so-called "war cripples," as they were referred to in Germany, loomed ominously over the pension and welfare system, and many government bureaucrats, military leaders and civilians worried about their long-term fate.
One solution was returning mutilated soldiers to the workforce. Various prostheses were designed to make that possible, pushing prosthesis manufacturing in many countries from a cottage industry towards modern mass production.
In the United States the Artificial Limb Laboratory was established in 1917 at the Walter Reed General Hospital, in conjunction with the Army Medical School, with the goal to give every amputee soldier a "modern limb," enabling them to pass as able-bodied citizens in the workplace. While the United States remained the largest producer of artificial limbs worldwide, Germany's prosthetic developments incorporated a particular quest for efficiency.
German orthopedists, engineers and scientists invented more than 300 new kinds of arms and legs and other prosthetic devices to help. Artificial legs made of wood or metal, sometimes relatively rudimentary, and often recreating the knee-joint in some way, enabled leg-amputees to stand and move around unaided.
Stanford researchers developed a retinal prosthesis that wirelessly transmits images from a video camera in a pair of glasses directly to a chip implanted inside the retina tissue. The innovations of lead scientist Daniel Palanker and his colleagues is that their system does away with any cable between the implant and the video eyeglasses, and buries the chip in the sub-retinal layers of the eye instead of on its surface to eliminate a kind of interference. They published their latest breakthroughs in the science journal Nature Communications. From Medical Daily:
In this study, Palanker's team from the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory placed these second-generation implants into the retinas of rats with or without macular degeneration. The researchers found that the new bionic retinas could transmit images into the minds of rats, which was observed by measuring brain activity in the visual centers of the rodents' brains.
"Solar-Powered Bionic Eye Developed By Stanford Scientist" (Medical Daily)
Restoration of Sight to the Blind: Optoelectronic Retinal Prosthesis (Daniel Palanker) Read the rest
This is Rex, a $1 million "bionic man" built in the UK by roboticists Richard Walker and Matthew Godden. Rex was the star of a new Channel 4 documentary titled "How to Build A Bionic Man." Rex is outfitted with a variety of synthetic systems and appendages, from prosthetic limbs to a cochlear implant, artificial pancreas to retinal implant. He's now on display at the London Science Museum but will visit America in October to promote the Smithsonian Channel's US premier of the documentary, retitled "Cyborg/Frankenstein." Read the rest
31-year-old amputee Zac Vawter made medical history Sunday, climbing 103 stories of the Willis Tower with a state-of-the-art bionic leg controlled by electrical impulses from the muscles in his upper leg, including a rewired hamstring. He finished the climb in 45 minutes. More at the Chicago Trib, and CNN. Read the rest