Bionic Arm and Medical Makers

Bionic Arm and Medical Makers

Jesse Demonstrating Bionic Arms 1

Jesse Sullivan has two prosthetic arms that are connected to his shoulder and controlled via electrical impulses. Besides being handy, they look awesome! In the cnn article, it’s mentioned that the doctor, Dr. Todd Kuiken, is interested in collaborating with the military. Images of robocop and the six-million dollar man are dancing in my head.

NECAL uses nerve-muscle grafts in amputees to gain added control signals for an artificial arm. Doctors take nerves that used to go to the arm and move those nerves onto chest muscles. The nerves grow into the chest muscles, so when the patient thinks “close hand,” a portion of his chest muscle contracts and electrodes that detect this muscle activity tell the computerized arm when to close the hand. Thus, the patient thinks “close hand” and his artificial hand closes. – Link

Last night I was chatting with a new acquaintance at dorkbot who had recently gone through a lot of surgery and I learned that doctors are often the creators of new medical technology and that they make a lot of their own tools. I’m really curious about this, if you know any good stories about doctors as makers, leave them in the comments or drop me a line at

Update: A commenter says, I attended an inventor’s association meeting in which Phoenix, AZ area podiatrist Dr. Kerry Zang, DPM spoke. He invented replacement toe joints,some special cannulated screws with an asymmetric head to anchor ligaments(and/or tendons?) to bone without leaving the usual protrusion that interferes with overlying soft tissue. He also created the tools necessary to “install” those implanted devices.

You might find specific references to his inventions somewhere on the internet. But, with a quick search, I don’t see much that directly associates his name with his medical devices.

Sorry I can’t be more specific, but it’s probably worth checking out Dr. Zang if you’re doing some actual research on the topic of doctors as inventors. – Thanks Dale!

More Dr. Makers: Graeme Clarke is a further example of an inventing doctor (in this case, ENT surgeon). He is widely credited as the inventor of the cochlear implant, though of course he collaborated with numerous scientists, audiologists and engineers over the course of several decades, mostly within the Department of Otolaryngology at The University of Melbourne.

His most famous insight was the design of the electrode array, which famously occured to him while at a beach – inserting a blade of grass (electrode array) into a spiral-shaped sea shell (cochlea).
– Thanks David!

4 thoughts on “Bionic Arm and Medical Makers

  1. JMin says:

    Claudia Mitchell, 26, is the first woman to receive a thought-controlled prosthesis. She demonstrated her bionic arm Tuesday at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where Dr. Todd Kuiken pioneered the technology.

  2. SonicReducer says:

    it would be cooler if he already had real arms and this was an exoskeleton. i already have arms, so i can’t do this… nevermind, let me get my dremel….

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