On November 12, 2003, in Bionics
Development of the AbioCor heart can be expected to accelerate now
that the FDA has approved its wider use.

State-of-the-art myoelectric prosthetics are being
fitted to wounded U.S. soldiers. The cost can be high or low, depending on how
you look at it. A myoelectric tour de force — the bionic arm and
shoulder fitted to Scotsman Campbell Aird two years ago — is already obsolete,
and its new and better replacement is being made

AbioCor Heart To Be More Widely Used

The AbioCor artificial heart appears set to receive U.S. Food and Drug
Administration approval in mid-2004 for use as a Humanitarian Use Device, which
means it can be used for heart patients nearing death.

Reference: Howington, Patrick (2003). “AbioCor
heart clears hurdle with FDA: Number of implants expected to increase
.” The
Courier-Journal, September 30.

Bionic Arms

A U.S. Army solder who lost the lower part of both arms in Iraq has been
fitted with “myoelectric” motorized prosthetic wrists and hands that respond
like real hands and wrists to electrical impulses from his forearm muscles.

Myoelectric prosthetics are a 1940s German invention whose time, given
today’s rapid advances in materials, microchips, and MEMS (microelectronic
mechanical systems), has come. Amputees can now handle an egg or a 25-pound rock
with equal ease.

A German prosthetics company has gone to the next level with an artificial
hand with fingertip sensors to feel when an object is about to slip out of its
grasp and automatically tighten the grip, and a U.S. company has developed a
myoelectric limb, for above-the-elbow amputees, whose elbow, wrist, and hand
movements can be controlled by flexing the upper arm muscles and shoulders.

“The technology is going to accelerate,” said a company executive. He was
wrong only insofar as it has clearly accelerated already, but right that the
acceleration will continue. The cost (about $35,000 for below-the-elbow arms and
double that for above-the-elbow arms) is hardly negligible, if one thinks of
providing them to the general population of disabled, yet on a pro-rata, body
part for body part, basis and taking inflation into account, it values the
Six Million Dollar Man of the 1980s’ TV series at probably well under a
million today.

Reference: Loeb, Vernon (2003). “‘Bionic’
Advances a Boon to Amputees
.” Washington Post, October 20, p.

Bionic Arm In For Refit

Scottish cyborg Campbell Aird has had to give back his groundbreaking
artificial arm, the first arm/shoulder combination to be operated by nerve
impulses, but he will be testing a new version early next year. The original arm
allowed coordinated movement in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand, but it had
teething troubles, such as “getting stuck in the ‘up’ position” and failing to
bear the weight of a tray he was carrying. The new prototype (the developers say
they are a long way from a commercial version) will be made of newer materials
and be more streamlined, lighter, and easier to assemble.

The arm senses electrical currents from the shoulder muscles. Microchips
translate those signals into joint movements. Meantime, U.S. researchers hope to
build on successful experiments with monkeys to produce brain implants that
would allow severely disabled people to control prosthetic limbs directly with their
rather than indirectly through the muscles.

Reference: Curtis, Tom (2003). “Man who lost
bionic arm waits to be rebuilt
.” The Scotsman, October 26.


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