FDA approves robotic arm for amputees - New York News

FDA approves robotic arm for amputees

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The U.S. government spent $40 million to develop a robotic arm as part of a larger project to improve prosthetic limbs. It was designed to produce near-natural upper extremity control to amputees. The arm system has the same size, weight, shape, and grip strength an adult's arm would produce.

In "The Empire Strikes Back," Darth Vader sliced off Luke Skywalker's hand. In the final scene, Luke is fitted with a robotic arm.

Now real life has caught up with science fiction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a robotic arm for amputees fittingly named after Luke. The arm translates signals from the brain to then perform multiple simultaneous movements, a huge advance over the metal hook currently being used by some amputees.

Deka Research and Development, founded by Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway), developed the prosthetic arm. The FDA approved the Deka arm system after it was tested and 90 percent of the amputees who used the device were able to perform complex tasks such as using keys and locks, feeding themselves, using zippers, and brushing or combing hair.

Dr. Bruce Pomeranz, the medical director for the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, in New Jersey, said the robotic arm will be life-changing for amputees.

The Pentagon's involvement came about because of the type of injuries sustained by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where more than 1,800 underwent major limb amputations.

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