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by Mike Zazaian September 14, 2006 - 12:42pm, 4 Comments

First Bionic Arm Put on a Woman

A new bionic arm allows its owner to manipulate her hand and fingers just by thinking about them.

No, she didn’t blow up in an experimental Space Plane like Steve Austin, TV’s the Million Dollar Man, but 26-year-old Claudia Mitchell’s new bionic arm has made her faster and stronger. The arm, which Mitchell can move simply by thinking about it, was developed by physicians and engineers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The arm’s mechanism works by detecting the movements of the chest muscle that connected to the nerves of her former arm. Sporting three seperate motors, the bionic arm allows a vast range of movement. According to Mitchell:

“I use it to help with cooking, for holding a laundry basket, for folding clothes — all kinds of daily tasks.”

And as advanced as the arm is, engineers already have a more complex six-motored arm in development. The new arm would be able to perform more complicated motions. Whereas the three-motored version only allows Mitchel to reach so high, the six-motored device should allow her to reach over her head.

Prothesis is also a consideration for Mitchell. The process, still under development, would allow her to “feel” with an artificial hand. Surgeons have already gone so far as to rewire the arm to a patch of skin over her left breast, allowing impulses from the arm to relay signals to the patch of skin, at which point her brain detects the feeling of a hand.

While three such arms have already been implemented in amputee patients, Claudia Mitchell’s is the most advanced in existence. Also, her new bionic arm marks the first ever put on a woman.

[via The Washington Post]