The production and improvement of prosthetic limbs are one of the biggest challenges in healthcare as engineers try to match nature. It aims to fulfil the same function as a natural part of the body, but even after centuries of development, the road to bionic limbs still fall short in functionality. Nevertheless, the future is bright as technology is changing the shape of prosthetics bit by bit.
Advances in technology are improving industries and the lives of many in various forms. Part of its significant improvement is seen in prosthetic limbs, where many are steadily breaking free from the limitations of basic attachments back in the day. In recent years, and in future predictions, artificial limbs are incorporating technologies that enhance the limb’s movement.
What Do Prosthetic Limbs Look Like Today?
Prosthetic limbs were once a tool to restore the appearance and function of an amputee’s missing limb. While it did not bring back full motion and the sense of touch, there were sport-specific prostheses that enabled amputees to continue their way of life. The designs were also made to enhance performance and reduce any risk of injury, which is why prosthesis plays a significant role in managing mobility.
Its advancement through the years are significant, which is seen in one of the first revolutionary prosthetic designs back in the 1990s. Released in the United States, a microprocessor-controlled joint prosthetics revolutionized its entire function as it can now automatically adapt to an amputee’s unique needs.
For instance, utilizing a microprocessor-controlled joint for the legs can encourage the artificial limb to mimic the person’s specific walking patterns, increasing mobility and natural leg movement overall. Advances in materials have also improved the design of prosthetic limbs, making the material lighter in weight and providing more skin-like coverings for a more natural finish. To the untrained eye, most prosthetic limbs are hard to distinguish from natural arms and legs.
Advances in Prosthetic Limbs and What to Expect in the Future
Prosthetics in recent years are more comfortable and highly-engineered like never before, but its production is moving at an electric pace with the rise of neuroprosthetics. This introduction has turned brain-controlled prosthetics as an essential field of research.
The idea is to utilize electrode rays and place it in the brain, nerves or muscles as a digital means of translating the message between the body and the brain. This means that through brainpower alone, amputees have a chance at controlling movement.
Stimulating Touch as the Next Frontier in Neural Prosthetics
A significant aspect that acts as a roadblock for the progress of neural prosthetics is the sense of touch. A lack of sensory feedback will compromise an amputee’s ability to develop dexterity, which is why different labs from across the world are focusing on developing electrically stimulating prosthetic limbs.
The UChicago research team, for instance, has a $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to cover their study on the brain’s somatosensory cortex. By studying how the system transmits sensory information from the body’s nerves to the brain, the possibility of creating prosthetics that stimulate the nerves through electrodes in real-time is becoming highly likely.
Through time and more advances in technology, the next bionic human maybe just on the horizon.
If you’re looking for foot prosthesis solutions, get in touch with Lindhe Xtend to see how we can help!