If you haven’t yet received bionic knees to lift you up when you fall, push the emergency button on our Life Alert medical alert pendant for immediate help.
Written by Heidi Nestor, Writer and Editor, Life Alert

A shattered arm gets replaced with titanium bones and a computer interface for maximum control and strength. An amputated leg gets substituted by steel knees, carbon fibers, and a mini processor.  Modern medicine has the technology to rebuild the human body, making it better…stronger…faster through bionics. Although this may sound like a popular 70’s TV show, this article is about the reality of rebuilding the body, even as we age.  So imagine a current day Lee Majors (70+ years of age), skipping his afternoon nap to run a triathlon. The idea of a Six Million Dollar man is no longer sci-fi, but is actually in the field of current day medicine. 

Body Meets Machine.

The Center for Bionic Medicine (CBM) is a research and rehabilitation institute focused on improving the function and quality of life for people who have suffered limb loss. The center’s director, Dr. Todd Kuiken, explains very simply that amputees who have lost a hand and wrist are able to operate a prostatic hand through myoelectric prostheses, a motorized device controlled by little electrical signals from your muscles, so every time the person contracts their muscle it generates electricity that can be recorded and repeated.  Myoelectric Prostheses is intuitive and works well if the amputee’s loss is minimal.

But what if an entire arm – all the way up to the shoulder – is removed? CBM has pioneered a technique called "targeted reinnervation" to improve myoelectric prosthesis function.  According to CBM:

Amputated nerves are transferred to spare muscle and skin in an amputee's residual limb. The nerves grow into the muscle to provide additional control signals for the operation of prosthesis. This allows patients to control multiple functions in their prosthesis at the same time in an easier, more natural manner. 

Although this may seem like the beginnings of the Star Trek’s Borg, a pseudo-race of cyborgs, this is real revolutionary science; Sci-fi meets the medical industry. 

What’s even more amazing about "targeted reinnervation" is that it is brain, not battery, operated. Simply put, when the body’s nervous system is still intact, even though a limb may not be, nerves continue to put out command signals.  When the brain sends a message to move an arm, the nerves are still functioning and flickering whether the arm is there or not.  Reinnervation process weaves the protestic wires with the nerves so when the brain sends a message to move an arm, the nerves - now combined with the prostectic limb - reacts and performs the command.

But don’t think that a mechanical limb can’t feel anything. According to the CBM website, after a reinnervation procedure “sensory reinnervation takes place where the patient feels touch to the reinnervated skin as being applied to their missing limb.” This may allow the amputee to actually "feel" what they are touching with a prosthetic hand.

Through these studies, CBM is working to develop a state-of-the-art prosthesis that includes shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand components, as well as haptic interfaces, a technology that provides touch and sensation feedback.  Controlling all of this machinery occurs through the nervous system and the thought process so, these bionics are intuitive. 

Although this gives hope to a younger generation that may be born with dysfunctional arms and legs, or may loose limbs in an accident, this can also serve our venereal elders.

Senior citizens are aging more healthfully than ever before.  Diet and exercise is becoming critical elements to remaining independent and young at heart.  So when a severe case of diabetes causes a 60+ year old to lose a leg, or if an auto accident leaves an active 70 year old limbless, "targeted reinnervation" can provide solace in regaining one’s freedom and independence.

But until the day when bionic parts are as mainstream as teeth implants, there still remains one of the simplest and inexpensive ways to regain and maintain one’s freedom and independence, and that is through Life Alert Protection.  If you haven’t yet received bionic knees to lift you up when you fall, our service provides peace of mind in knowing that all you need do is push the emergency button on our medical alert pendant and help will be summoned fast, 24/7.

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