The Future Human: Linking man with machine

February 22, 2010 9:23:18 AM PST
After surviving a car crash on September 27, 2008, 18-year-old Jordan Wells and her friend Ashley Younger were being transported to a nearby hospital by a MedEvac helicopter. But as they were on their way to get care, something went terribly wrong. Dense fog and rain made it difficult to land ?the helicopter lost control and crashed. Younger didn't survive. Wells lived but had to undergo 24 surgeries to treat a broken cheekbone, nose, eye socket, shoulder blade and five dislodged spinal discs. She also lost one of her legs, but thanks to a new prosthetic, she's back on her feet again.

BIONIC LEG: Wells' new leg, the V-Hold, was developed by Hanger Orthopedic Group. It's unique "smart" socket adjusts as the wearer walks, jogs, speeds up, slows down, stands up or sits down. It's also designed to adjust to different terrains. Sensors and a vacuum suction improve fit and comfort.

One factor that may be speeding up the development of such technology is the fact that U.S. troops injured in Iraq have needed limb amputations at twice the rate of past wars. But many others could benefit from devices like the V-hold. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there are 50,000 new amputations every year in the U.S.

i-LIMB: Another revolutionary prosthetic is the i-LIMB bionic hand. Each finger in the advanced hand has an individual motor, giving amputees the motor control it takes to execute everyday tasks, like writing and holding small objects. Electrodes are placed on the surface of the remaining portion of the person's limb, reading myoelectric, or muscle signals, from within to control the hand.

THE FUTURE OF PROSTHETICS: Soon prosthetics will be controlled using the mind. Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, have already successfully demonstrated that a pair of monkeys with electrodes in their brains are able to control a robotic arm as if it were their own. Scientists in the United Kingdom are also working to link prosthetic limbs with a person's actual skeleton. Currently, prosthetics are connected externally to a person's stump, but the Intraosseous Transcutaneous Amputation Prosthesis (ITAP) involves connecting a titanium rod directly into the bone. Experts say the risk of infection is avoided because skin tissue grows around the rod to form a seal.


Krisita Burket
Media Relations
Hanger Orthopedic Group, Inc.
(904) 249-0314