If you’re fortunate enough to have all of your limbs, chances are that you take them for granted. The human body is a remarkable piece of biological machinery, and our limbs are no exception. They are wonderful examples of delicacy and complexity. Consider not being able to do the tasks that are common for you to do at the moment? Like drinking coffee, picking up stuff, tossing a ball, writing and even eating. What if you didn’t have any hands? And walking and running? Would that be possible without any one of your legs? What’d your life be then? Will it still be that easy and simple? We guess not. There are people who’ve lost their limbs to certain accidents or diseases and are leading a handicapped life. They cannot mix with people like normal people do. They are considered as less fortunate in some societies. So ultimately they’d resolve to beg at the corner of your street. Well it seems that all hope is not lost; The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working with civilian researchers and developing prosthetic limbs.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major effect on the world. The prosthetic limbs can be controlled like the actual limbs using our Brain. These limbs work on technology called Targeted Muscle Re-innervation (TMR). It was developed by Dr. Todd Kuiken at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. As we know that our Brain is the processing unit of our body, and it monitors all our activities and movement. Everything is decided up here. Well it’s where the development started for the prosthetic limbs. To understand the working of TMR we need to consider basic physiology. Our brain send signals down our spines which are then carried by peripheral nerves to different parts of our body and control them. These signals are in the form of electric commands.
This is how it works for a normal human being with all the limbs present. For an amputee, the case is a little different. Consider that when a signal is sent down to an amputated body part, the signal meets a dead end. So in Targeted Muscle Re-innervation these amputated muscle nerves are redirected to some other muscle. And the electrical activity of that muscle to which the signal is redirected is connected to the prosthetic limb, so that the limb can read the electrical changes in that muscle and act accordingly. So just by thinking the person can actually send down electrical signals that are in turn read by the prosthetic limb and the movement of the limb is controlled by the brain. One fine example for us is of Staff Sgt. Glen Lehman, who injured is his arm in Iraq. He is currently using TMR technology to make his life better and get most out of it. He recently demonstrated the latest technology and was able to throw stuff and effortlessly grasp a scarf.
The field of technology and medicine is very vast. It’s been introducing us to wonders such as the one we discussed today. The patients nowadays live a better life, because they are treated in the best of ways due to the use of technology. Let’s hope, all the world’s problems can be resolved with technology and everyone could lead a happy and healthy life, Cheers!