Science as a Human Endeavour

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23/09/19 Sciences Reference this

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Science as a Human Endeavour Task

Part A

Jack E. Steele coined the word bionic in 1958. It originated from ancient Greek term ‘bion’ meaning ‘unit of life’ and the suffix -ic representing ‘like’ hence forming ‘like life’ or can be classified as being formed through the combination of biology and electronics (En.wikipedia.org, 2017).

Biology

Technology

History

Future directions

Issues

Implications

Key Words

Sense

Electromechanical sensors

It would benefit soldiers who lost their finger while battling for their country or for humans who were born with finger deformities or for those who lost their finger in the accident.

Making bionic finger that allows the amputee to not only distinguish between rough and smooth but also allow amputees to feel and distinguish other surfaces.

Only a few thousands of patients have access to these innovations due to its cost which is somewhere between $57,000-$73,000 making it hard for people with the low financial background to afford it.

The current set of bionic fingers only allows the user to distinguish between rough and smooth surfaces and doesn’t allow the amputee to differentiate between hot and cold surfaces.

Rough and Smooth

Bionic Finger

(Sensitivity)

Electrical signal

2014- A study gave amputees a sense of touch and pleasure allowing them to pull chalks of cherries without crushing the fruit.

Making long-lasting battery for the device and making bionic finger at lower cost making it available for all patients regardless of their financial background.

The cost to maintain/repair the bionic finger is expensive.

Deform

Nerves

(Brain, Sensory and Motor)

Electrodes from the bionic finger are surgically attached to the nerves of the upper arm which then carry signals from the electrode to the brain

The patient lost his lower arm in 2003 due to firework accident.

Designing and constructing bionic finger at a lightweight giving the patient a feeling of having a real hand.

Patients with bionic body parts while travelling through the airport are being asked to step aside to investigate their bionic parts although it is a safety precaution it does makes the patient feel uncomfortable.

The electrodes from the bionic finger are connected to the nerves of the upper arm. If a malfunction occurs then the nerves would get affected which could paralyse the amputee and has a possibility of damaging the brain.

Identify and manipulate

Prosthetic body part

A sequence of on-off commands

Updating and upgrading the touch sensors and microprocessors.

Emulate

Sense of touch

A series of electrical spikes are sent to the brain through wires where the electrical spikes mimic the language of the nervous system and create a sensation of feeling

Allowing amputees to experience more natural stimuli like the texture of jeans and other things a normal human being would touch in a day-day life.

Different textures

Upper Arm

The upper arm contains nerves which are naturally connected to the brain. The electrodes from the bionic finger act as nerves for amputees until the upper arm.

Sensation of texture

Surgically

Electrodes are surgically attached to the upper arm

This is a significant benefit because it can be easily fitted and can be easily removed if the amputee is not happy with the device.

No major surgery required

Brainwaves

Electrical spikes travel through the nerves to the brain where they mimic the language of brainwaves to command the bionic finger

Non-amputees

Stimuli

When the bionic finger comes across a surface, it sends signals to the brain which commands the bionic finger to carry out the command the amputee wants

Table 1: Key findings from the article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part B

Influence

Over the last 30 years, new development and research in the field of prosthetic has helped bionic arms more pleasant, functional and lifelike. Nowadays the device is being connected to the user’s nervous system to control the nerve action instead of devices which are manually strapped and artificially powered and is mainly due to the surgical advances which allowed nerves to be connected artificially.

The development of touchscreen has influenced bionic finger as touch is a vital part of a finger which will help the amputees to distinguish between various surfaces. The constant advancement in the field of nanotechnology has helped bionic finger as sensors, and other vital parts necessary to run the device can be made at a small size (1-100 nm) to make the device lightweight. Although they are minimal in size, they are capable of storing a vast amount of information this is due to advancement in the technology field.

From computers having only a few megabytes to store music back in those days to nowadays where we can carry an entire collection of their favourite music in their pockets. The innovation of FILMskin made using superhydrophobic materials with thin layers of carbon nanotube to mimic skin properties to allow the amputee to feel heat, cold and touch sensation on their skin. Moreover, the nerves of non-amputees can also be stimulated to feel roughness, without the need of surgery, meaning that prosthetic touch for amputees can now be developed and safely tested on intact individuals. 

The advancement in the field of 3D printing has allowed scientists and engineers to 3D print out external body parts and few internal organs to cover bionic body parts to make sure the amputee has a feeling of having a real hand and also to avoid unnecessary attention for the amputee.

Research in myoelectric by scientists has allowed the bionic body parts to the amputee’s body to be controlled by electrical signals generated by the muscles and will give the amputee a feel of a real hand as the bionic body part do precisely everything the amputee thinks of.

Researchers point out that all these advancements in the field of prosthetic were only possible due to the development’s undertaken following World War 2 (Spector, 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part C

British Company Touch Bionics has created the world’s first powered bionic fingers that can be used by patients with missing fingers. ProDigits, as the device is called, can help its users bend, touch, pick up and point — reflecting almost all the critical functions of a natural hand. The prosthetic fingers are for those who have a partial hand, where the absence of fingers is due either to congenital anomalies or amputation (Ganapati, 2017).

In 2014, the DEKA Arm system was developed by DARPA and Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway). This prosthetic system utilises a series of electrodes capable of reading muscle movement so that a wearer feels as though the brain is naturally operating the appendage. This system can handle fine motor operations like picking one grape from a bunch and bringing it to a person’s mouth. Vibrations generated by the prosthetic device can tell a person if they are gripping fruit, keys or some other item too hard (IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law, 2018).

Designing artificial limbs to accomplish some particular tasks was a hallmark in the 20th Century because, in 1906, a female pianist played a show at London’s Royal Albert Hall using a right-hand prosthetic with fingers spaced to play an octave on the piano (IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law, 2018).

When a person loses his or her limbs due to disease or injury, the functionality offered by the limb would be lost and would stop the person from performing typical day to day activities. The bionic finger is incredibly valuable to the amputee as it helps to restore few capabilities which were lost with the amputated limb. Although they have not reached a stage to mimic a natural hand fully, it does assist the amputee to perform routine daily tasks such as writing and playing billiards (Garden, 2018).

A human hand has five fingers on either hand with each finger consisting of multiple joints which are controlled by muscles and tendons. To bend a finger the human needs to command his muscle to pull the tendon which pulls the joints on the finger and make them bend. The human hand consists of many different joints which makes it very flexible, versatile and adaptable to a wide variety of different tasks. We start using our hands since a small child, and by the time we grow up, we barely have to think about it as the moving the finger becomes second nature as it has been programmed naturally over the years according to a person’s needs (Buddies and Buddies, 2018).

Bionic is all about integrating technology and nature. There are many uses of bionic with the bionics used in replacing lost limbs being the most used. Scientists nowadays have come to a point where they can 3D print any external body part and a few vital organs due to technology advancement. They are different from prosthetics because bionics can communicate with the brain and allows very minimal moment at present. This is very important as it keeps amputees to live longer (Softschools.com, 2018).

Moreover, the nerves of non-amputees can also be stimulated to feel roughness, without the need of surgery, meaning that prosthetic touch for amputees can now be developed and safely tested on intact individuals. The technology to deliver this sophisticated tactile information was developed by Silvestro Micera and his team at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) and SSSA (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna) together with Calogero Oddo and his team at SSSA. The results, published today in eLife, provide new and accelerated avenues for developing bionic prostheses, enhanced with sensory feedback (ScienceDaily, 2018).

Bionics, also known as biomedical implants, are artificial additions to the human body. In most cases, these additions are meant to mimic the function of a non-functional body part, such as a limb or an eye. Some bionics, such as artificial limbs, has existed in one form or another for centuries. Newer innovations, such as cochlear implants, are still finding their place in society. Despite their positive aspects, bionics can have some adverse societal effects.

Inflated Social Expectations

Most bionics are still not at the stage of restoring full function to disabled limbs or senses. However, public perception of bionics often credits them with greater effectiveness than they have. A disabled person who receives a bionic hand or cochlear implant may still be operating at a much lower level of effectiveness than someone with a flesh-and-blood equivalent. The perception that they have been fully cured of their affliction may make it more difficult to gain the help and understanding they still require.

Trans-Humanism

While bionics are still struggling to mimic natural human abilities in most cases, there are a few examples of existing bionic technologies, which surpass normal human abilities, with more on the horizon. A runner with two artificial legs was banned from the 2008 summer Olympics after a scientific study showed they gave him an unfair advantage. This raises the question of trans-humanism, the use of bionics to increase the natural abilities of healthy humans. This raises the question of ethics to a higher and more controversial level and afflicts many bionic technologies under development today.

Economic Divides

Bionics are often affluent examples of advanced technology. Artificial hands can range from a plain metal hook to a fully articulated mechanical hand wired into the user’s nervous system. The sharp contrast in cost and function between these two examples demonstrates the size of the economic divide in bionics. By providing the possibility of repairing disabilities at great expense, bionics threatens to deepen the gap between the rich and poor regarding the quality of life.

Ethical and Aesthetic Concerns

Bionics, in general, has an ambiguous status in society. The concept of artificial body parts is tied closely to the definition of humanity. Some religious groups and societies believe bionics to be unclean or sinful, which may be reflected in the way they treat individuals with bionics. Some biomedical implants, such as cochlear implants, are much more effective when implanted in infants rather than adults. This raises the question of whether such a life-changing decision as a bionic implant can be made by another person (Sciencing, 2018).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

The utilisation of electronic devices and mechanical parts to assists amputee humans in performing day to day tasks or intricate (complex) tasks by duplicating the finger is termed as a bionic finger. Jack E. Steele coined the word bionic in 1958. It originated from ancient Greek term ‘bion’ meaning ‘unit of life’ and the suffix -ic representing ‘like’ hence forming ‘like life’ or it can be classified as being formed through the combination of biology and electronics (En.wikipedia.org, 2017). Bionics are highly advanced pieces of technology which can be connected to various parts of the body. The crucial devices in the market being a Bionic eye, heart, knee and ear (Curious, 2018). The partial hand amputee population is considerable and is estimated 1.24 million worldwide. The primary focus of this investigation is to investigate and evaluate the development of the technology from the earliest of applications to current applications of Bionic Finger because advanced prosthetic arms are an active area of research for scientists and doctors as they are trying their best to clone the functionality of the human arm which is challenging to create because the hand offers movement and gives feedback about texture of the object it holds (Touchbionics.com, 2018).

Background Information

Bionic is all about integrating technology and nature. The bionic finger is incredibly valuable to the amputee as it helps to restore few capabilities which were lost with the amputated limb because when a person loses his or her limbs due to disease or injury, the functionality offered by the limb would be lost and would stop the person from performing routine activities. Although bionic finger has not reached a stage to mimic a biological finger fully, it does assist the amputee to perform routine daily tasks such as writing and playing billiards (Garden, 2018).

The world’s first powered bionic finger for patients with missing fingers was launched on 8th December 2009 by Touch Bionics (Ohio, USA) (Touchbionics.com, 2018). The world’s first mechanical metal arm (which had a spring-loaded mechanism to hold the finger in the shape of the object the user wanted hold) was worn by Götz von Berlich a knight who lost his arm in a battle in 1504 (IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law, 2018).

 

Image 1: An 19th-Century engraving showing the outer working of the hand (Io9.gizmodo.com, 2018).

 

The Interaction between Science and Society

A patient named Joel in 1952 lost his right hand while working on a machine in his father’s upholstery shop at the age of 17. Joel was unable to get prosthetic fitted on him for six months after his accident, and the first prosthetic he got was a piece of wood which was carved into the shape of the hand and served him as the missing hand which forced him to do his routine tasks only using his left hand. During the 1970’s Joel wore shoulder straps with cables going under his armpits which were uncomfortable to wear. During the 1980’s a lightweight battery-powered device called myoelectric prosthetics was introduced which works by placing muscle sensors against the patient’s skin and the electric signals generated by the muscle allow the patient to move the prosthetic. To get the device Joel initially had to check whether he had enough muscle power in his arm to be able to use the prosthetics and thankfully he did have which allowed him to open his hand by pushing his muscles up and had to push his muscles down to close his hand. Joel, now 82 said “Prosthetics had come a long way in the last 50-60 years as technology is opening doors to advancement which were never possible when the accident occurred. The prosthetics nowadays are not just looking realistic but are also helping patients to do day to day tasks like a normal human being” (PennLive.com, 2018). This interaction between science and society allowed patients like Joel and Daren Sørensen (who lost his lower arm due to firework accident) to perform day to day tasks such as picking up objects and feeling the texture of surfaces through the use of the bionic finger.

Past and Current Users

In 1800, James Potter of London developed an artificial hand which was secured by securing a loop around the opposite shoulder of the amputee to hold the artificial hand in place. 40 years later all of the inventions of James Potts were patented (Refer to Image 2) in the US by Selpho an apprentice of James (IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law, 2018). During the 20th century, the only prosthetics available to amputees was a wooden hook as the World War destroyed all the materials needed to make an artificial hand. These primitive replacements gave the wearer back some semblance of

Image 2: US Patent No.18021 entitled Artificial hand created by James Potts and Patented by Selpho (Freepatentsonline.com, 2018).

The i-limb device created by Touch Bionics had articulating fingers incorporated which was powered independently by five digits which open and naturally closed around objects. Due to the articulating digits, many amputees around the world were able to perform daily tasks comfortably. A year later the same company introduced i-limb digits which were an extension of the i-limb to provide a new finger solution for partial hand patients. The device helped amputees having a missing finger to have the feel of real fingers. Since then Touch bionics introduced few more devices with each being tailored to the patients need. The latest device launched being the i-limb quantum which had gesture control incorporated allowing the amputee to change grips with a simple gesture while also offering 30% faster digit speed and had 50% more battery life than prior products of Touch Bionics. Although touch bionic is a significant company in the market, there are other companies and researchers such as Silvestro Micera and his team at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland who are developing bionic finger containing electromechanical sensors that deform when touched which allows the amputee to get feedback (New Scientist, 2018).

Biological Aspect

The bionic finger works the same way as a natural hand by using the stimulus-response model. A stimulus (a change in the external or internal environment) is detected by the receptors (sensory neurons). In this case, the receptors would be the eyes. The receptors transform the environmental stimuli into electrical nerve impulses. The electrical nerve impulse is transmitted to the central nervous system (CNS) (Brain or Spinal Cord- Interneurons) through neurons. The central nervous system processes the nerve impulse and transmits them to the motor neurons. The motor neurons carry the nerve impulses from the central nervous system to effectors. Effectors are organs that produce a response to the stimulus. In this scenario, the effectors would be the muscle which would be connected to the bionic finger. The muscle receives the electrical nerve impulses from the CNS and transmits it to the bionic finger through the wires which carry out the desired response.

Example: A glass containing water is detected by the eyes. The sensory neurons transmit the electrical impulse to the CNS where it is received and processed. A nerve impulse is then transmitted from the brain to the muscles (biceps). The bicep muscle transmits the electrical impulse to the bionic finger which carries out the response; Grip the glass, raise the glass to the mouth and then drink.

Ethical and Social consideration

Like every other invention, this has its share of negatives. The primary being the amputees may become capable of being faster in doing tasks and can gradually outpace the normal human beings in all areas of life through the use of bionic body parts which could prompt ordinary people to amputee their body to get access to these devices. Other main issues are:

      As many bionic fingers nowadays are being controlled by apps in phones and there are many hackers out there capable of hacking phones. To prevent this from occurring, apps should be created along with the help of hackers to make sure the app controlling the movement of the bionic finger is well protected.

      Amputees while travelling through the airport are being asked to step aside during the security screening to check their device although this is a safety precautionary it does give unwanted attention for the amputee, making them feel uncomfortable.

      Advances in human bionics may eventually require us to rethink our concepts of what it is to be human, as the lines between human and machine become increasingly blurred (Curious, 2018).

      Bionics, in general, has an ambiguous status in society. The concept of artificial body parts is tied closely to the definition of humanity. Some religious groups and societies believe bionics to be unclean or sinful, which may be reflected by the way they treat individuals with bionics. Some biomedical implants, such as cochlear implants, are much more effective when implanted in infants rather than adults. This also raises the question as to whether such a life-changing decision as a bionic implant can be made by another person (Sciencing, 2018).

 

 

Conclusion

To conclude, the bionic finger is still very much at a developmental level as the bionic finger in the current market only allow amputees to only move, touch and grip objects. There are still few challenges with this technology which include constructing new lightweight devices to give the amputee a feel of having a real hand and not a machinelike hand, integrating stimuli-responsive materials to allow the amputee to distinguish between various surfaces and the device is not yet fully accessible for all amputees due to its cost. To overcome the cost factor, the government along with noteworthy technology and manufacturing companies should tie up and provide funding for collaborating of scientists, chemist, biologist and engineers in making of bionic fingers at an affordable cost.

Word Count-1524

References

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       New Scientist. (2018). Bionic fingertip gives amputee a feel for different textures. [online] Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2079808-bionic-fingertip-gives-amputee-a-feel-for-different-textures/ [Accessed 5 Jan. 2018].

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       PennLive.com. (2018). From a wooden hand to bionic fingers: advances in prosthetics allowing amputees to regain mobility and dexterity. [online] Available at: http://www.pennlive.com/bodyandmind/index.ssf/2014/02/from_a_wooden_hands_to_bionic.html [Accessed 5 Jan. 2018].

       Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2. (2017). Timeline: Prosthetic Limbs Through the Years | UPMC HealthBeat. [online] UPMC HealthBeat. Available at: http://share.upmc.com/2015/03/timeline-prosthetic-limbs-years/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2017].

       ScienceDaily. (2018). Amputee feels texture with a bionic fingertip: The future of prosthetic touch resolution: Mimicking touch. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160308084937.htm [Accessed 30 Jan. 2018].

       Sciencing. (2018). Negative Effects of Bionics on Society. [online] Available at: https://sciencing.com/negative-effects-bionics-society-8517245.html [Accessed 30 Jan. 2018].

       Softschools.com. (2018). Bionics – Branches of Biology. [online] Available at: http://www.softschools.com/science/biology/branches_of_biology/bionics/ [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].

       Spector, D. (2017). The Incredible Evolution of Artificial Limbs Started with This Wooden Toe. [online] Business Insider Australia. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-evolution-of-prosthetic-technology-2014-8 [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].

       Touchbionics.com. (2018). Touch Bionics unveils world’s first bionic finger | Touch Bionics. [online] Available at: http://www.touchbionics.com/news-events/news/touch-bionics-unveils-world’s-first-bionic-finger [Accessed 4 Jan. 2018].

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