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|Resource List: 2007 Timeline: Prosthetic Developments
|This timeline chronicles some of the most landmark developments in prosthetic implants and prosthetic limb technology in 2007.
February: The Dawn of 3D Printed Prosthetics
In February 2007, just as the year was getting started, the first sign of a major breakthrough in prosthetics appeared.
For the longest time the trend has been for prosthetics to be more and more expensive to make ? more and more complex, pricing them out of availability. A technology, which is beginning to revolutionise prosthetic manufacture and other niche industries where mass production is simply not an option, finally showed its face.
PhD student Domenic Eggbeer, at the National Centre for Product Design & Development Research, in the UK, made use of rapid prototyping technology to advance the science of making facial prosthetics, by about forty years, overnight, and at drastically reduced cost.
March: Woman with bionic arm regains sense of touch
In late 2006, Ex-Marine Claudia Mitchell became the first woman to be fitted with a bionic arm. By early 2007, experiments by the teams responsible for the arm, had advanced to the point where further surgery was carried out on this willing guinea-pig, to try and restore some sense of touch to her new arm ? to hook it into her nervous system.
Surgeons re-routed the ends of the motor nerves ? which once controlled her arm?s movement ? into the muscles in her chest and side. And the ends of the sensory nerves, which fed signals responding to heat and touch from her now-amputated arm to her brain, were been transferred to the skin on her chest.
A completely new field of medical study - targeted muscle reinnervation ? has sprung up to deal with the concept of transplanted nerves controlling artificial hardware attached to the human body.
April: Medicine Management via Bodypart
The drug dispenser prosthetic was born in April. The idea, new to drug dispensation, was not to dispense a drug at all. Instead, take a leaf out of drip solutions: Anchor the dispenser to part of the patient, let it become a part of their body and, every time a dose is required, it dispenses straight into the digestive tract, or, even straight into the bloodstream.
A dental prosthesis was developed by the for European Union. The Intellidrug implant then contains all the drug dosage required for a year or more.
The dental prosthesis releases accurate micro-dosages directly into the mucous membranes in the mouth. Saliva enters the reservoir via a membrane, dissolves part of the solid drug and flows through a small duct into the mouth cavity, where it is absorbed by the mucous membranes in the patient's cheeks.
May: Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 Delivers First DARPA Limb Prototype
An international team led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, developed a prototype of the first fully integrated prosthetic arm that can be controlled naturally, including the provision of sensory feedback and allows for eight degrees of freedom. This was a full order of magnitude beyond previous efforts, including the haptic arm of Claudia Mitchell.
June: New Implant Promises Prosthetic Near-Natural Hearing
A new ear implant was first developed this month, which, unlike cochlear implants, does not penetrate the cochlea of the ear, removing existing sound capability, but rather taps straight into the auditory nerve. It converts sounds to electrical signals itself, and pipes them straight to the brain.
July: Infection-Proof Prosthetic Paw
A Belgian German Shepherd dog called Storm, became the first person to be fitted with a prosthetic implant made of technology derived from deer antlers, which fit into the bone and stick through the skin with no risk of infection to the animal.
Last year, Dr Paul Unwin, managing director of Stanmore Implants Worldwide, a medical devices company that worked in collaborated with the scientists, said: "The mobility of tissue is a big factor; you don't want the tissue to rip away from the piece of metal, so you need a structure under the skin that will allow the dermal tissues to attach into the metal.
"The miraculous thing for Storm is that the bone has grown into the metal, and the skin has grown into the metal, so now he has a resilient seal which cannot break down and he cannot get infected through it. That's been the holy grail of amputee research for years." said vet Noel Fitzpatrick of Farnam, Surrey, who performed the surgery. "Because it has been implanted into the radius of the forearm of the dog, it will act as a model for human amputees in the future and provides hope for people without feet or hands."
July: Augmented reality device helps multiple sclerosis patients walk
Researchers from the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel crafted a wearable augmented reality immersion apparatus designed to provide patients suffering from balance disorders with supplemental auditory and visual information to restore normal gait.
A computer system the size of a mobile phone, containing inbuilt gyroscopes and doppler arrays measures body movement, processes it and sends feedback to the user through earphones, and visually through a HUD display, to guide improvement.
The HUD itself, clips onto a standard pair of glasses, for minimal obviousness. The glasses are either prescription or plain glass, it does not matter. The HUD feeds a display into the eye of a virtual, tiled-floor, which is overlaid on the actual floor, faint enough to tell the actual apart in the case of holes, slopes, or stairs, and provides a baseline for movement.
Device Debut: X-Finger
The X-finger debutted in 2007; the first prosthetic for a single finger. Not a prosthetic arm, but simply the individual digits of the hand.
Device Debut: i-Limb
The I-Limb, the first commercially available tactile gripping hand, debutted this year.