For those in need of a prosthetic limb, it's important to know what new advances are shaping this important medical field. There are now limbs that allow you to actually feel objects again and even limbs that can be printed in a 3D printer. Both have the potential to dramatically improve your quality of life. By staying abreast of these type of advances, you can plan for what kind of prosthetic you want and speak with your doctor as an informed and aware patient.
DARPA Helps Restore Touch And Sensation
DARPA is known for building some of the most advanced robots in the world for the US military, but it also features a division dedicated to building advanced prosthetics. In 2015, this research arm of DARPA helped a 28-year-old who had been paralyzed for a decade feel sensations in a prosthetic hand that was wired directly into his brain. In fact, the technology is so advanced that the research volunteer could even feel which mechanical finger was being touched during testing.
The project successfully implanted electric diodes in the sensory cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for tactile sensations. The wires were also placed inside the motor cortex of the volunteer, which is the area of the brain that controls body movements. The wires were then connected to the subject's prosthetic hand. In effect, a feedback loop was created that allowed the volunteer to receive the necessary electrical signals to his brain every time he touched an object.
Although you may already have a prosthetic limb, if you aren't able to "feel" the objects you're touching, it can be much more difficult to control your limb and perform highly precise actions. As this technology makes its way to the general public, expect the amount of independence and control you can achieve with your prosthesis to improve dramatically.
3D Printing Prosthetics
If you need an artificial limb, one of the primary hurdles is the high cost of many prosthetic limbs. Fortunately, new technological advances are helping bring down costs and create new possibilities. For example, one foundation is making progress providing 3D printed prosthetics to patients using crowd-sourced technology to produce an extremely cost-effective prosthesis. The foundation's prosthetics hand costs only $50, which is significantly cheaper than most prosthetic limbs, which often go for thousands of dollars.
New advances allow for a variety of prosthetics through many customization options. 3D printers can make individuals fingers, prosthetics that can be printed to fit a child as he or she grows, and even specialty hands that help an individual hold specific objects, such as a viola bow.
As you can see, the future holds a lot of promise if you require a prosthetic. Speak with your doctor or a prosthetic professional, such as those at Cotton Orthotic and Prosthetic, to learn what kind of prosthetic technology is available to improve your standard of life.
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