Newest Innovations in Prosthetics

September 21, 2015

Prosthetics are by no means a new invention; the earliest functioning prosthetic is a big toe recorded in 664 BC.

Sabrina Wu Gretchen Whitney High Senior   12th

By Sabrina Wu
Gretchen Whitney High

Of course, as technology rapidly advances, prosthetics have changed to give patients a better quality of life. YouTube videos of children first receiving a prosthetic arm or a teenager receiving a leg are always touching. 

The tears of joy as well as the marvel at receiving that missing limb have been possible by the amazing progress scientists have made in this new age.

New prosthetics can cost around $5,000-$50,000, but they only last around 3-5 years due to intensive use, so they have to be replaced often. Scientists are looking towards 3-D printing to provide a cheaper alternative as well as a way for patients to replace their prosthetics quickly if broken.

While new technologies are helping improve the quality of life for these patients, scientists are always trying to innovate and streamline these improvements.

Currently, scientists have targeted a new facet of prosthetics: allowing users to regain their sense of touch. This is called sensory substitution, which replaces one sensory input for another.

New prosthetic technologies use tactile sensors to give the sensation of feeling. Tactile sensors are devices that collect data on the interaction between prosthetic and physical surfaces. When tactile sensors are stimulated, part of the prosthetic applies vibrations to the patient’s skin.

Johns Hopkins University has pioneered a new type of prosthetic known as Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPL). With MPL, patients can control the prosthetic just by thinking about the movements they want to make.

Patients must first undergo nerve remapping surgery before being fitted with the robotic prosthetic so that brain signals can be sent to the prosthetic. The prosthetic itself has 26 joints and can curl up to 45 pounds.

Although it’s not available on the market yet and likely won’t be for a while, it definitely holds a lot of hope for the future!

One Comment

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