Retinal prostheses such as the Argus II
and the Retina Implant AG microchip
all work – more or less – by stimulating the retina’s ganglion cells with light-induced electrical signals. The images produced in the patient’s visual cortex tend to be quite rudimentary, however. This is partially because the rate at which the signals are sent isn’t the same as the rate of neural impulses normally produced by a retina. Now, researchers have deciphered the neural code used by mouse ganglion cells, and used it to create a prosthesis that reportedly restores normal vision to blind mice. They have additionally deciphered the neural code of monkeys, which is close to that used by humans, so a device for use by blind people
could also be on the way.
A two year old girl born with arthrogryposis, a congenital disease that left her unable to lift her own arms, although able to walk, has been given a new lease on life by a 3D printed robotic exoskeleton, enabling her to move freely for the very first time. The exoskeleton, made of a similar material to Lego, was manufactured using a Stratasys Dimension 3D printer so as to create a prosthetic light enough for young Emma to continue walking around freely.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in North America, while retinitis pigmentosa causes approximately 1.5 million people worldwide to lose their sight every year. Individuals afflicted with retinal degenerative diseases such as these might
someday be able to see again, however, thanks to a device being developed at California’s Stanford University. Scientists there are working on a retinal prosthesis, that uses what could almost be described as miniature solar panels to turn light signals into nerve impulses.
While modern artificial hips are made of a number of high-tech materials, metal is still often the material of choice for younger, more active patients. This is due mainly to the fact that it’s so robust. Unfortunately, however, difficulties can arise in the metal ball-and-socket interface – where the artificial head of the femur meets the artificial socket of the pelvis – if things aren't perfectly aligned. In particular, the metal surfaces can wear against one another
, decreasing the longevity of the implant and potentially causing health problems in the patient. Now, researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation are developing a new type of heavy-duty artificial hip, that contains no metal at all.
Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a neuroprosthesis that restores complex movement in the paralyzed hands of monkeys. By implanting a multi-electrode array directly into the brain of the monkeys, they were able to detect the signals that generate arm and hand movements. These signals were deciphered by a computer and relayed to a functional electrical stimulation (FES) device, bypassing the spinal cord to deliver an electrical current to the paralyzed muscles. With a lag time of just 40 milliseconds, the system enabled voluntary and complex movement of a paralyzed hand.
By now, probably just about everyone has seen amazing footage of single- or double-amputee runners, using Össur's Flex-Run carbon fiber running blades. The springy substitutes for legs allow their users to run so fast and naturally, that there is currently a debate over whether or not it would be fair to allow athletes using them to compete against non-amputees. Carbon fiber isn't exactly known for its grippy qualities, however, so Nike has been working with one-legged triathlete Sarah Reinertsen, to create the equivalent of a shoe that could be used with the blades. The result is the Nike Sole.
When he was nine years old, Toronto film-maker Rob Spence
received a severe injury to his right eye in a shotgun accident. After a period of hiding the aftermath under an eyepatch, six years ago he had the eye replaced with a prosthesis. Being a visual artist, however, he had an idea - instead of just an unseeing artificial eye, he wanted one that could capture images of what he was looking at, and wirelessly transmit them to an external recording device. He himself wouldn't be able to see through the eye, but the footage obtained from it could take film-making to new levels. It's been a few years since Spence began his Eyeborg Project, but he has just announced that the eye is now functioning.
Over the years, New Jersey orthopedic surgeon Lee Berger became frustrated with the lack of information that patients had on prosthetic devices that had been implanted within their own knees, hips, feet, or other parts of their skeleton. In order to gather data such as the size, model, age, serial numbers or manufacturers of these implants, either X-rays or extensive paper trail hunts were required. His new product, the Ortho-Tag, is designed to address this problem. All of the vital data regarding an implant could be obtained by placing a probe against the patient's skin, plus information on the health of the surrounding body tissue would be provided.
The Argus II Retinal Implant
from California-based company Second Sight has become the first retinal prosthesis for treatment of the blind approved for sale in Europe. The approval follows a successful clinical trial
that ran for almost four years and saw more than 30 patients around the world using the device at home as they went about their daily lives. While the system isn’t able to restore normal vision, the majority of trial subjects gained the ability to perceive colors, recognize large letters and locate objects, while two were even able to read short sentences.