New Prosthetic Limbs with Feeling
Replacing amputated limbs with prosthetic limbs have been for years a step towards a hopeful future for amputees. Replacing their limbs with metallic limbs controlled by chips, able to grasp, step, walk and continue their normal lives was an amazing invention. However, something important was missing and that is, sensitivity. Sensitivity is the ability to feel and is an important sense to all human beings. This capability was lacking in the previous prosthetic limbs. The amputees could only tell what they were touching using their hands by looking at the object. However, due to technological advancements and countless hours dedicated to research and development by scientists, sensitive prosthetic limbs were developed and displayed by scientists in early 2014. The prosthetic arms have restored the lost hope of many amputees who never dreamed of ever having sensitive hands in their lifetime. The sensitivity was achieved through wiring pressure sensors specifically to the fingers of the prosthetic hand direct to the sensory nerves of the upper arm. Through this, the artificial hand was improved since amputees are now able to control their prosthetic hands and even engage in activities they were not able to do prior to the development of the sensitive prosthetic hand.
The creation of a prosthetic skin stimulated with sensors has also improved on the functions of artificial hands since the skin is able to feel warmth and moisture depending on the environment of the patient. Scientist have been revealing wide varieties of artificial limbs ranging from those that are controlled by the brain to those that are able to heal naturally just like the normal skin.
Scientists in Austria earlier this year also revealed a sensitive artificial leg that is able to undertake the functions of a real limb. This new revolution is a mixture of science and technology which has been improved to enable the users recognize different surfaces while walking. The artificial leg is able to make the amputee tell the kind of the environment tare in through the sensitive prosthetic leg. They are able to recognize whether they walking on grass, sand, tarmac or on gravel without looking. Similar to the leg, the new hand is able to touch and feel objects and the patient is able to identify objects touched without having to look at the object. Moreover, the sensitive prosthetic limbs will improve the balance and coordination of the amputees when walking and using their legs to do other things for instance, riding a bicycle, running and climbing.
One of the most amazing breakthroughs in the sensitive prosthetic leg has been the elimination of phantom pain which most amputees experience. Several users who have been testing the advanced prosthetic limbs have reported that the phantom pain they used to feel has been wiped out. The pain is caused by the brain continuously trying to seek information on a missing limb in the body and hence it becomes very sensitive causing much pain to the amputee. Phantom pain has been a cause of frustration for many amputees characterized by sleepless nights and inability to do some activities and hence the amputees have received the new sensitive limbs with much gladness.
Like the sensitive prosthetic hand, scientists also wired sensors to the sole of an artificial leg, which were linked to stimulators that are joined to the stump. The advanced technology used in the development of these new sensitive prosthetic limbs is beyond imagination. Through science and technology application, scientists are researching on prosthetic legs able to respond to signals effected by a patient’s nerves. Moreover, through pattern recognition, the prosthetics will be able to respond to patient’s intention for instance sitting and standing depending on the intention of the patient. The new prosthetic limbs with feeling ability are not only a breakthrough in science but also in healthcare. However, the cost of developing the limbs is extremely high and hence the patients have to incur huge costs related to purchasing the limbs not forgetting that patients are required to replace the prosthetic limbs in every five years which shows that in their lifetime, the patients will incur considerable costs. Scientists are therefore looking to improve the technology and partner with companies and institutions in attempt to cut down on the costs so that patients can be able to afford them without struggle.
Prior to revealing the new prosthetic limbs with ability to feel, possible concerns were problems related to their effect on the user such as disruption of signals to the limbs caused by sweating or certain movements and possible discomfort when the prosthetic continuously rubs itself against the skin. However, due to sophisticated technology, researchers successfully developed prosthetics that can directly fitted to the limbs of the amputees avoiding any manner of friction able to cause discomfort and sores.
The risks associated with sensitive prosthetic limbs are unclear for now. The available information on possible risks is only clear on the use of prosthetic skin. The skin though beneficial poses a risk to the user since the user is not able to tell the temperature of a surface and hence may receive burn injuries through holding on to a very hot surface without realizing it. Moreover, the skin is apparently very soft and hence the user is likely to drop objects while holding. Possible risks of the feeling artificial limbs are those that non-feeling limbs create which are associated with using them such as the risk of infection caused by progressive skin issues. Possible long term effects related to using prosthetics despite the high technology used exist. Skin temperature may rise causing blisters and heat rash. Infections are caused by the moist and warm environment created in the inside where the prosthetic is joined to the stump leading to incubation of bacteria. These health risks are both associated with the upper and the lower artificial limbs. However, since the sensitive prosthetic limbs are still in the trial stage, these risks and any other risks have not been confirmed but with time the risks will be made clear to the users and to the public.
With many people having been amputated due to cancer, diabetes, accidents and war related injuries, this new breakthrough has not only improved the lives of amputees but has also given them a chance to enjoy their lives again. The feeling artificial limbs are a chance offered to amputees to live their daily life like amputation never happened. The intensive research by scientists has paid off with more sophisticated artificial limbs. Moreover, since scientists are continuing to research and improve prosthetics, amputees remain hopeful of innovative and more sophisticated limbs capable of performing functions just like real limb
Prosthetics is a topic I chose to write about since among many other scientific discoveries and developments made over the years; this has been a scientific revolution that has impacted the lives of so many people from ordinary citizens to war veterans who lost their limbs. Through artificial limbs, many amputees have received a new meaning of life after discouragement and fear caused by the loss of a significant body part. In my research, I used Google and Google scholar to search for the articles on web sites and medical journals that have covered on the subject of new limbs with feeling. The Google search was successful where I came across several articles some dated later than June 2014, while others were dated months and years before that date. However, the Google scholar search did not prove successful since most articles were dated years ago. I changed my search strategy to using the subject prosthetic limbs with feeling, but still the articles were beyond the date and month I was required to use. In my search however, I observed that since the revealing of the new sensitive limbs to the world, scientists have not yet recorded and reported this breakthrough through journals since I did not come across a medical journal or article written on the subject.
The available articles are in web sites where journalists have interviewed these scientists and patients who have been testing the new limbs. This observation is true to the gate keeping lecture which examined the advantages of the internet in science journalism, one advantage being that the internet is able to report new and upcoming issues quickly and is also able to continuously cover a story unlike other reporting methods (Beyond gate keeping, 2015). For instance, when scientists in Austria revealed that they had developed a feeling prosthetic leg, journalists reported it through the internet in days.
One of the sources that I used for the purpose of this paper was an article by Gaffey published in 8th June 2015, which reported on, “world’s first ‘feeling’ prosthetic leg revealed”. Moreover, I used an article by Whitehead (2015) titled, “world’s first ‘feeling’ artificial leg offers hope for wounded soldier”. My last source was by Alford (2014) titled, “smart artificial skin could give prosthetic limbs feeling.” These articles have contributed a lot in my writing through providing information I did not possess.
This paper is written in using the website genre. I chose this genre since I felt that the scientist discourse community has not yet published a report on this subject and if they have, it is inaccessible through the internet therefore I chose the website genre which is accessible to many readers interested in the subject. Moreover, this genre is simplistic in nature since its language and structure is simpler than other genres such as science magazine. Though my article would be accessible to many readers, my target audience are the amputees or individuals close to an amputee who are interested in updates on the development and improvement of artificial limbs.
Since my target audience are people with no scientific knowledge, I attempted to persuade them through the use of relatively simple language and metaphors. For instance, the constant use of artificial limbs in place of prosthetic limbs since the term prosthetic is very unfamiliar and a complex used by the science discourse. The challenges I faced is based on the public understanding of science lecture, where I tried to be as much literal as possible due to the gap in scientific communication and public understanding of scientific language and methods (PUS, 2015). Moreover, since my sources were journalists who had no scientific background and failing to locate a scientific journal on the subject made me question the reliability of the information available on the websites.
My sources information is based on the research of a visible scientist from Austria by the name of Professor Hubert Egger who is credited with creating the feeling prosthetic leg (Whitehead 2015). However, the articles from the websites do not report the visible scientist making a statement on his creation. Nevertheless, his creation has attracted the attention of the ministry of defence in Britain, which is keenly monitoring the invention to determine whether the invention can assist soldiers who have lost their limbs when defending their nation (Whitehead 2015).
Though being a bit skeptical on the sources I used, I widely used the mertonian image of science as the main frame to my article. The mertonian image is based on the premise that the role of science is to generate knowledge by imposing the norms of people. As such, my article was written to convey on the innovative development of prosthetic limbs to my audience. Moreover, the mertonian image is also based on the premise that evaluation of a scientific methods or claim should not depend on the person who made the claim. Therefore, my evaluation of the sources though skeptical due to lack of scientific articles, still relied on the claims made by my sources.
Concerning having a political agenda, I would decline since my article has been written with all amputees in mind regardless of their political, economic or social backgrounds. Therefore, my sole focus was to write this article in an attempt to inform amputees or any other interested party about the creation of the sensitive prosthetic limbs.
The issue of false balance was a great challenge in writing this article. This is because my sources’ view of reporting was completely focused on the improvement and new features of the feeling prosthetic limbs and did not cover on the possible risks associated with using the limbs. Moreover, the issue of environment was also not covered yet science and technology in most cases have a direct or indirect effect on the environment. This according to Mercer (2015), brings out the possibility of direct influence in media reporting where journalists and media houses are influenced by corporate bodies and organizations on which issue to cover and which not to. Nevertheless, I was able to deal with the false balancing problem through my available knowledge on possible risks associated with using the new limbs though I clarified that the scientists have not confirmed the risks since the limbs are still in their trial stage.
In conclusion, I consider this article a good piece of communication since it has incorporated science language and a layman’s language to strike a balance in an attempt to convey reliable information to the public and also to the scientific community. This means the information is open to all people who have access to the internet.
Alford, J 2014. Smart Artificial Skin Could Give Prosthetic Limbs Feeling. Available from http://www.iflscience.com/technology/smart-artificial-skin-could-give-prosthetic-limbs-feeling [10 June 2015]
Beyond Gate Keeping, New Media and Science Communication: Cyberchondria as a Case Study, 2015. Lecture notes distributed in Science Discipline.
Gaffey,C 2015. World’s First ‘Feeling’ Prosthetic Leg Revealed. Newsweek. Available from http://europe.newsweek.com/worlds-first-feeling-prosthetic-leg-revealed-328387 [10 June 2015].
PUS? Acronym for Public Understanding of Science, 2015. Lecture notes distributed in Science Discipline.
Whitehead,T 2015. The First ‘Feeling’ Artificial Leg Offers Hope for Wounded Soldiers. The Telegraph. Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11660394/Worlds-first-feeling-artificial-leg-offers-hope-for-wounded-soldiers.html. [10 June 2015]