Health Headlines: New bionic arms helping children with prosthetics

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:44 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Four out of every ten thousand children are born missing part or all of a limb. But a new first-of-its-kind trial at the University of Central Florida is offering hope. Researchers have developed bionic arms for children to improve the function of their prosthetics and now they want to know how those children’s brains change when they take part in activities that others might take for granted.

Twelve-year-old Sami Atkinson says her arm is part function and part personal fashion, “I just picked the color navy blue.”

Sami was born with a condition that caused her arm to develop incompletely. Three years ago, she joined a trial being conducted by Limbitless Solutions. It’s run by scientists that specialize in developing advanced, muscle-sensing technology.

“It’s not heavy anymore because I use all my muscles,” says Sami.

The newest version of the bionic arm uses electromyography. When the muscles flex, they produce a voltage like a battery.

Dr. Albert Manero, the Co-Founder of UCF Limbitless Solutions, explains, “And with the same stickers that you would use for having an EKG on your chest, we can put them on the bicep muscle. And then, when that muscle is contracted, we read that signal and send it to the computer chip that’s in the hand. And that will tell the hand to do different gestures and routines.”

Researchers are now studying what changes are occurring in children who were born without limbs, but that now have prosthetics that can pinch and lift.

Shea McLinden with UCF Health Sciences says, “We’re looking at seeing if there’s any changes in the brain and the functionality.”

Sami says in the past three years, she’s been able to help with chores at home, “I could fold laundry; I could fold shirts. I can fold anything.”

The researchers say the prosthetics empower children at a time during their social development, when they may need validation most.

Over the past three years, the researchers have fitted eighteen children with the customized prosthetics, which are 3-D printed. The children enrolled in the trial will perform tasks in a functional MRI machine so researchers can measure their brain activity.