Three men get bionic hands
Three men get bionic hands Milorad Marinkovic shows his bionic arm (AP photos)
Three men get bionic hands
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Three Austrians have replaced injured hands with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs.

The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as "bionic reconstruction," which includes a voluntary amputation, the transplantation of nerves and muscles and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand.

Previously, people with bionic hands have primarily controlled them with manual settings.

"This is the first time we have bionically reconstructed a hand," said Dr. Oskar Aszmann of the Medical University of Vienna, who developed the approach with colleagues. "If I saw these kinds of patients five to seven years ago, I would have just shrugged my shoulders and said, 'there's nothing I can do for you.'"

He said while some patients might be candidates for a hand transplant, that has its own complications, including having to take anti-rejection medicines for the rest of their lives.

Aszmann and colleagues described the cases of the three men in a report published online in the journal Lancet. The men decided on amputation only after having the bionic hand strapped onto their injured hand, to see how the robotic one might function.

For Milorad Marinkovic, 30, who lost the use of his right hand in a motorbike accident more than a decade ago, the bionic hand has allowed him to hold things like a sandwich or bottle of water and more importantly, to play with his three children.

"I can throw things, but it is harder to catch a ball, because my right hand is still not quite as quick and natural (as my left)," said the Vienna based-clerk.

Dr. Simon Kay, who authored an accompanying commentary and performed Britain's first hand transplant, said there would always be major limits to bionic hands. He pointed out that the brain has thousands of ways to send messages to the human hand but that a robotic prosthetic can't handle such complexity.

"The question is always going to be: How do we get the message from the mind to the metal?" he said.

Patients like Marinkovic, however, have few complaints about the bionic hand, which proved especially popular with his son. When he first got the device, his son, then 4, would put on the bionic hand and proudly walk around with it, telling the other kids in his kindergarten class that "my father is a robot."

Marinkovic says using his bionic hand is nearly as natural as using his uninjured hand.

"I can do almost everything with it. I just don't have any feeling in it."

An unrelated study published last year gave patients some feeling in a prosthetic hand by relaying signals to the brain in a temporary experiment and other replacement hands can do things like grip objects but are controlled externally.

Aszmann estimated the new procedure costs around $33,960. The study was paid for by groups including the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development and a laboratory which receives funds from Otto Bock, maker of the prosthetics used.

Critical thinking challenge: Explain the meaning of this task: "Getting the message from mind to metal"

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Assigned 53 times

  • Haley Patterson
    3/03/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    I think that this is great that these men get a second chance on being able to have friends. This could also help with the men who are in the army and lose limbs.

  • dianaz-Che
    3/03/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    These men have injured hands and they replaced them with bionic ones. This allows them to grip things and do some things he could regularly do. I find this to be a good thing because it is a privilege to even be able to do anything with your hand after a bad injury.

  • TreyvaunT
    3/03/2015 - 01:55 p.m.

    It would be cool to have a bionic hand, but can they feel anything still? Like if his hand got ran over would he feel it? It's still cool that he can use his hand again.

  • tylerha-And
    3/03/2015 - 03:45 p.m.

    What they mean when they say getting the message from mind to metal is that they have figured out through nerves, that you can control robotic things from your brain.

  • Colby N Turquoise
    3/03/2015 - 05:28 p.m.

    That's pretty cool, If I had lost the use of a body part I would like to get a bionic arm, or something. But as they said there is the problem of response to reflexes where they cannot send a message from the brain to the metal, but it would still be cool.

  • MJordan-Cas
    3/03/2015 - 07:07 p.m.

    The three men that got this bionic hand are amazing. The bionic hand could be a big step to people who have lost hands and could possibly influence how doctors use other bionic limbs such as legs and feet. The men complain of nothing wrong with the hand and it it lets them enjoy their everyday life.

  • anthonyp-DiB
    3/04/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    "Getting the message form the mind to metal" It primarily means getting our brains commands to the robotic hand. as stated in the passage its our brains send alot of information to our hands alone when the hand can only take in so much.

  • AlmodovarJoshua-DiB
    3/04/2015 - 11:02 a.m.

    its about how 3 men have have replaced there injured hands with bionically ones,. this allows them to get back alto of the motor functions that they lost. but it docents gives them all back as is only a prototype.

  • SPhilip-Cas
    3/04/2015 - 04:53 p.m.

    These bionic arms truly are something amazing. Letting people do things they couldn't do anymore. The hard part of this technology is getting the neurons signal to control the arm. I'm sure in a few years this technology will get a lot better, maybe even better then the human arm.

  • Ashleypatt
    3/05/2015 - 01:55 p.m.

    These bionic arms are really something cool. To know that even if you dont have a hand or arm your able to get one of these and be able to do everything that someone with an arm can do. So do know that technology can do something great makes everyone happy.

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