When someone in Aurora suffers a serious back injury at work, he or she may be left paralyzed. Although anyone who loses mobility or use of their limbs due to a workplace back injury is eligible for workers’ compensation, an injured worker likely hopes to one day regain the full use of his or her limbs through new technologies. One of the co-founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen, is hoping to help make new technology available by funding a research team to develop a new prosthetic that should overcome hand and arm paralysis.
If all goes according to schedule, the device will likely be available in eight to 15 years. Although it may seem like a long way off, scientists, developers and medical professionals need to make sure that what they are putting on the market is safe.
There have been numerous advances in science that have allowed scientists to bypass injured portions of the spinal cord, some of which we have touched on in our blog. This prosthetic would rely on something similar: a computer that sends signals from the brain and into the spinal cord. What it would entail, however, would be brain surgery and implanting electrodes on the spinal cord that will operate the muscles used for arm and hand movements.
What makes this device particularly interesting, however, is that it will hopefully be completely wirelessly updatable and rechargeable. Currently, scientists hope that by sleeping over a special coil, that the small wireless computer can be recharged.
For Colorado workers whose careers have been cut short by hand or arm paralysis, the next eight or so years may see many incredible developments.
Source: The Seattle Times, “Paul Allen backs UW project to overcome hand, arm paralysis,” Brier Dudley, Sept. 24, 2013