The Real Bionic Woman

John P.

BionicsA lot of people out there are too young to remember the 1970’s TV show The Bionic Woman, starring Lindsay Wagner, so in short it was about a woman who had near super-human powers as a result of bionic implants after a skydiving accident.

Well, reality becomes one step closer to fiction now that Claudia Mitchell, a former US marine, has been fitted with her new bionic arm. This new piece of technology is controlled by thought, and is six times faster than older technology in actual usage.

The full story is from the UK’s Telegraph, and here is an excerpt:

When Ms Mitchell thinks about moving her hand or arm, the nerves react as if they were still leading all the way down her arm and into the elbow and fingers.

If someone touches the patch of skin on her chest it feel as if they are touching her hand. Scientists are working on sensors for the artificial hand that would communicate with the re-routed nerves to provide a patient with the same sensations they would have felt before amputation.

Dr Todd Kuiken, from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the leader of the medical team that developed the technology, said: “The brain doesn’t know that these nerves are connected to different tissue or muscle.”

Ms Mitchell began to feel the muscles in her chest twitching when she tried to close her hand or bend her elbow three months after the operation to re-route the nerves. After six months the new 11lb artificial limb was fitted and she became proficient in using it after a few days.

She practised using the limb four to five hours a day, five to six days a week, and was able to operate her hand and elbow “intuitively” within seven weeks of the fitting.

Pressing pressure-sensitive buttons allowed the wrist to rotate at the same time as other movements were being made.

Ms Mitchell was able to complete a task involving moving blocks into boxes four times quicker with the new prosthesis than the conventional one.

In tests of her ability to put on make-up, eat, clean and do the laundry, the bionic arm helped her perform up to six times quicker.

Dr Kuiken, whose work is funded by the US National Institutes of Health, said eight patients had been fitted with the new system, and that it was hoped US soldiers returning from Iraq could benefit from the technology.

He added: “With training, the patient became proficient in use of the prosthetic within a few days.

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