Artificial hands will bring new hope for thousands

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Biomedical engineers in Edinburgh have given hope to thousands of infants born each year with parts of their hands missing, by developing the first "bionic" hand for children.

Biomedical engineers in Edinburgh have given hope to thousands of infants born each year with parts of their hands missing, by developing the first "bionic" hand for children.

The hand, about to go into commercial production after 16 years' development, has been designed by David Gow - the man who invented the artificial legs that enabled Jamie Andrew, the Scottish mountaineer who lost both legs in the Alps two years ago, to climb again.

The new bionic hand is powered by a small battery that has to be recharged in much the same way as a mobile phone. Muscle movements in the arm activate the battery, which in turn triggers pulses that move little motors (10 millimetres in diameter), allowing the hand to open and close.

Mr Gow, who is the director of rehabilitation engineering at the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital, said successful trials of the hand had been completed on five English youngsters.

"Its design means it can be adapted for left or right hand and enlarged as the child grows, or else made up as a complete hand and wrist," said Mr Gow, who two years ago invented the world's first electrically powered bionic shoulder for adults.

An English prosthetic limbs manufacturer, RSL Steeper, is to manufacture the "Gow hand", with a target launch date of August next year. Mr Gow expects the cost to the National Health Service of each hand to be less than £1,000.

Comments