In safe hands

Lindsay Block shows how her bionic hand works. (c) Touch Bionics

A British company is giving many amputees back their former dexterity with its groundbreaking  bionic hand.  The firm also creates electrically-powered shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers.

Based in Scotland, Touch Bionics' invention is doing great business in the United States and Europe.  

Deal in Saudi Arabia

The Touch Bionics hand is way ahead of the competition and allows patients to make many different kinds of movements. (c) Touch BionicsThe company is now about to sign a distributorship deal in Saudi Arabia with the help of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the joint department run by the FCO and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. UKTI has a lead role within government for developing trade and inward investment.

UKTI's advice was very important, said Gaurav Mishra, Touch Bionics' Director of International Business Development. "Their staff found the right people for us to talk to in Saudi Arabia, they sent out invitations, and the right people came to see us at our stand during a UK mission there."  

"In the eyes of our prospective Middle East partners it’s a very good endorsement of our capabilities when they see we have the backing and support of the UK government, they realise we have something important to offer."

Way ahead

The bionic hand is way ahead of the competition.  It is extremely flexible allowing patients to make many different movements. For example, the i-LIMB Hand has individually articulating fingers, a rotating thumb and a range of grips, unlike traditional prosthetic devices.

Touch Bionics has also recently invented a new "skin" to cover the working parts of the hand which looks uncannily like the real thing.  The company does say, though, that there are some amputees who prefer the "Terminator" hand which shows all the moving parts.

It also makes ProDigits which are self-contained fingers, individually powered and controlled, to help patients with partial hands, or who have lost one or more fingers.

Juan Arrendondo takes a jar from the supermarket shelf with his bionic hand. (c) Touch BionicsDifferent life

Former US army sergeant, Juan Arredondo, who lives in Texas, and who lost his hand in Iraq in 2004 after an explosion wrecked his his patrol vehicle, is somebody living a different life after being fitted with the i-LIMB Hand.

"Every day that I have the hand, it surprises me", said Arredondo. "Now I can pick up a Styrofoam cup without crushing it."

He has been impressed with its functionality, its natural movement and the way that it grips objects. Using the i-LIMB Hand, he can hold rounded objects like baseballs, can type using the finger-point feature, and is more easily able to open doors on his own. At its simplest, the i-LIMB hand just behaves so much more like a regular hand than the alternatives.

Lifetime experience

Lindsay Block's new hand is immensely flexible and looks uncannily like the real thing. (c) Touch BionicsLindsay Block of Oklahoma City has had a lifetime of experience with prosthetics. Born missing the lower part of her left arm Lindsay, now 26, has used almost every new generation of prosthetic technology since she was six months old. She is particularly impressed both by the life-like look of the i-LIMB and how it moves.

"When I’m wearing the i-LIMB Hand, I’m pretty sure that someone who doesn’t know me wouldn’t even guess that it wasn’t my own hand", she said. "It’s cool how it can adjust to whatever it is grabbing on to. With this new hand, you don’t have to think so much about what you do with it."

Have a look at the video of how patients have been helped to regain their touch.

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