Bionics, robotics and lasers: the latest in prosthetics

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仿生学、机器人学和lasers : 新在prosthetics

Olga Deshchenko, DOTmed News Reporter | April 15, 2011
From the April 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The BiOM works by simulating the action of the muscles in the foot and gathering information on the position of the foot and the terrain. By sensing the position of the ankle and the type of surface, the foot adjusts the amount of force it has to use with every step, according to iWalk’s website. And preliminary results of a study at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston show that the BiOM doesn’t require amputees to expend additional energy to use the prosthesis as compared to a healthy foot.

The first commercial units of BiOM were delivered to military medical centers in February and the demand is likely to grow, given the revolutionary technology behind the product.

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“We have seen a significant difference in function in this device over the other 200 plus feet we have used here at the DeBakey VA,” Mark Benveniste, a prosthetist with the center, said in a statement. “It is the most improvement over conventional prosthetics in the last 20 years.”

A smart arm on the way
For veterans who’ve lost an arm, a groundbreaking upper-extremity prosthetic is currently in the works. The device is called the Modular Prosthetic Limb and was developed by researchers at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. The lab was awarded more than $30 million by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop the device.

The technology behind MPL is pioneering because it involves mind control – amputees will direct the device using their thoughts through an implanted microchip in the brain. The current prototype of the MPL is silver and black, a robotic wonder that looks like it could be a part of Iron Man’s futuristic suit. The prosthesis can move 27 different ways, performing as many rotating and twisting motions as a biological arm.

The military hopes to bring the MPL to veterans soon – it plans to place the microchips on the surface of patient’s brains this year. That’s because the promise of the robotic arm caught the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency is using MPL as the pilot for its new Innovation Pathway program. The initiative aims to accelerate the process of approval for breakthrough medical devices through a speedier review, encouraging manufacturers to bring innovative medical devices to market.

The microchip that will be implanted on people’s brains will record the neuronal activity and relay the signals to the MPL for control, according to the FDA.

In the works: multi-grasp prosthesis

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