Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Alex Naumov

Soviet scientists invented prototype of bionic hand in the 1970s

According to archeological sources, a bronze leg manufactured in about 300 BC in Rome has been considered the world’s oldest prosthetic device until recently. It may be no longer true. A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Manchester indicates that an artificial big toe, made in ancient Egypt sometime between 1000 BC and 600 BC , could qualify for the title of the oldest prosthesis in history, France Press reports. The big toe was discovered during an excavation in 2000. It is currently on display in the Cairo Museum.

Scientists still have to arrive at a final conclusion as to which of the two antiquities should enter the records as the world’s original prosthetic device. In the meantime, the British look set to lay claim to the invention of the world’s first bionic hand. Iraq war veteran Sgt. Juan Arredondo became one of the first recipients of what is called as the i-LIMB Hand, a state-of-the-art bionic prosthetic device.

The former soldier lost his left hand in 2005 during a patrol in Iraq. But he was lucky to survive the blast of a land mine. Later he had another stroke of luck when a private British company picked him as a recipient of its cutting-edge bionic hand. Arredondo really lucked out for the third time when the Pentagon agreed to pay about $65,000 so that he could be outfitted with the i-LIMB Hand. “Basically, the human hand works on the same principle: the brain thinks about the movement, and the right muscle starts contracting in split second. In this case, we read off an electrical signal sent to the muscle. The nerve impulse travels to the hand only to be picked up by the computer located at the wrist,” said Troy Farnsworth, one of the developers of the i-LIMB Hand. It should be noted that the bionic hand is capable of performing rather fine gestures. For instance, it can grasp such round objects as tennis balls or coffee cups.

The bionic hand took 20 years to develop, BBC reports. The company claims is the i-LIMB Hand is world’s first commercially available bionic prosthetic device. It is important that we lay a special stress on two words of the description i.e. “commercially available.”

“The report on the bionic hand is not some hot news for us,” said Valentin Morzhov, head of the accident surgery prosthetics department of the Federal Bureau of Medical and Social Appraisal. “For instance, the world’s first bioelectric forearm was designed in this institute back in the 1970s. The device is still referred to as the Soviet invention by specialized literature published in the West,” Morzhov added. We should specify at this point that the above agency was formerly known as the Institute of Prosthetics Research and Development.

“Say you’re about to put your hand to pick up something but a portion of your limb is missing. That’s when a certain amount of mental effort can produce a muscle signal,” Morzhov said. “The signal is detected, and then you can open and close the fingers of your prosthetic hand. It’s very likely that the British designers implant electrodes in the muscles, and the electrodes are hooked up to the prosthesis…In any case, we were the first to come up with the basic principles of using mental activity to control the muscles,” Morzhov added.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Translated by Guerman Grachev