Medical Minute 11-24: Prosthetics: The Next Generation

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

Slicing and dicing - Cheryl Douglas is re-discovering her kitchen skills

"So far the best is to just cut it down the middle and just get it flat," said Cheryl Douglas Amputee.

The connoisseur of French cuisine lost both arms and both legs to an infection. She was in the hospital for three months. Rehab for eight.

"I just always wanted to be independent and that's the hardest part," said Cheryl Douglas.

She's re-gaining that independence with her bionic hand. On the I-limb, each finger moves individually, allowing her to grip objects.

"They can replicate almost every movement that the arm we were born with can do, and that's extraordinary," said Alexander Dromerick, M.D., National Rehab Hospital.

Electrodes attached to the end of Cheryl's limb pick up signals from her muscles. A computer inside the hand picks up the signals - and directs each finger to move.

In a University of Pennsylvania lab, researchers are taking prosthetics one step farther - developing one that moves with the power of the mind.

"It could be for anyone with any disability," said Douglas Smith, M.D., Director of the Center for Brain and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania; Professor of Neurosurgery.

Doctor Douglas Smith and his team grew a mini-nervous system. Their plan: Attach electrodes to the mini nervous system - transplant it into the spinal cord - and it will work like an extension cord, connecting the patient's thoughts to movements. For someone like Cheryl - new technology means a new outlook on life.

"You have two options, you can go home lie in bed and feel sorry for yourself. The other option is to just get up and do things."

Doing - and living without limits.

Karen KreegerSenior Science Communications Manager Penn Medicine(215) 349- 5658Karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu


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