Staff Sergeant James Sides (seen in the video below) lost his right arm in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He is now the first patient in an FDA trial testing an implantable, muscle-connected controller for prosthetics.
According to Popular Science, on July 15, 2012, while on a reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan, marine Staff Sergeant James Sides reached out his right hand to grab the bomb. In a flash, Sides felt the force of the explosion, blinding him in his left eye and taking his arm from the elbow down.
Sides returned stateside to begin his long journey to recovery. After spending a great deal of time recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Sides learned to use a prosthetic hand to complete day-to-day tasks. But, unsatisfied with the lack of mobility that it gave him, Sides returned to the hospital 11 months later. This time though, Sides was to receive a surgical implant that could represent a bright future for all amputees.
In his procedure, Sides had implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) inserted into his right arm. According to Popular Science, these devices read signals from residual muscles in his arm, bypassing his mind entirely. In turn, it “translates would-be motion into real motion,” restoring mobility that many prosthetic limbs do not have.
In the procedure, Sides had half a dozen tiny platinum/iridium electrodes embedded directly into his muscles. Fortunately, they are powered by magnetic induction, so there would be no need to change batteries or plug them in. Dr. Paul Pasquine, principal investigator on the IMES system and former chief of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Walter Reed, calls this feature important to making them more user-friendly.
“I have another hand now,” Sides says.
Although the device is still in the early stages of development, and still may have a long way to go, it is clear that it represents a new era in how we view prosthetics. In time, hopefully this technology will continue to develop and individuals like Staff Sergeant Sides will have their complete range of motion restored to them.
For more information on how the implant works, watch the video below: