The discovery of prosthetic limbs came with lots of amazement and hope to amputees who so far make 1.9 million of the US population. These bionic limbs have greatly eliminated the frustrations of always having to rely on assistance from friends that is when the affected wants to move from one point to another.
However, the need to better these manmade limbs has made bionic technology to grow in leaps and bounds In fact, to unimaginable levels, that today we have Paralympic Championship Competitions which give folks who lost either both or one of their limps, the chance to exercise their talents.
The current bionic limbs
As of now, prosthetic limbs are computerized, sensational and most amazing of all brain-controlled. As in, with some of the high-end artificial legs, the person can move the limb by simply evoking the action from his or her mind. Nonetheless, while that seems refreshing to the affected –research shows that people prefer simpler devices as the fancy ones sometimes prove hard to control, and mostly give limited feedback.
Limitations than need to be overcome
Naturally, when a person flexes their wrist with closed eyes they can feel where the wrist is and the speed at which it is flexing with ease. Likewise, holding a barbel, the person can feel it’s weight without having to concentrate, unfortunately for someone with an artificial wrist, he or she cannot associate with any of these feelings.
“Bringing back those sensations and merging them with prosthetics is what people with limp amputation need the most, not the fancy as earlier thought,” says Hugh Herr, a prosthetic limbs engineer at MIT, who also wears bionic limbs on both of his limbs. Well, with him –and particularly as one of the affected being on the wheel to improving the bionic future, hopes are higher.
New focus of bionic limbs technology
This time around, the focus for upgrading bionic limps targets two major areas. One recreating muscles and the other is changing the amputation procedure which, according to findings is being done wrong. In fact, the process currently employed is the same one that has been used since the time of the Civil War.
Amending the amputation procedure
A typical amputation slices through the patient’s muscles and nerves, leaving a couple of extra tissues to tuck around the end, purposely for cushioning the limp. This makes the severed nerves to swell painfully for lucking organs that should otherwise have helped to stimulate them as well as weaken the electrical signal muscle thereby hindering total control of bionic limbs when fit.
Fortunately, Herr and his colleagues have tested a new amputation formula that aims at supporting prosthesis and sensory feedback –according to a publication in the Science Robotics
Recreation of muscles
Muscles come in pairs and perform functions that are opposite to each other. That is, when the biceps flex the triceps stretch, this sends a signal to the brain alerting it what is happening in your arm – instantly. Amputation usually tends to break this coordination of muscle pairing. Nonetheless, research shows that these muscles could be recreated and this could help make bionic limps feel more natural. According to Herr, this could give users the proprioception which is basically the sense of their prosthetic limp movement and position without having to look at it.
It’s about bringing back the electrical signal connection
Back then, the amputated limp used to be cremated, but now scientists plan to extract important muscle tissues and nerves then merge them to the bionic limp, this will facilitate a flow of electrical signals between the limp and the brain, thereby alerting the limb on what to do.
However, for people like Herr who faced the amputation years back, muscle tissues will be imported from other parts of the body and then arranged nicely to receive the bionic sensors, says one researcher. When stretching or flexing, the muscle ideally will be telling the brain how the prostate limb is moving and likewise create the sense of position.
Well, this is still theory to humans even though the whole thing has been proven to work on rats, but the good is that research points out nil chances of failure, that means people will soon enjoy simple yet feelable bionic limbs like they have experienced working bionic eyes.