Egyptian Toe Prosthetic

Approaching Normal

Last June, archeologists found a 3,000-year-old artificial toe in an Egyptian noblewoman’s tomb. The prosthetic design (anatomically correct, carefully shaped — even elegant) addressed the same issues people with limb loss face today: the practical need to replace the function of the lost body part and the psychological need to look like everyone else.

These are the dual themes of this book: What science allows us to do and how society drives what we want (or feel compelled) to do.

Photo Credit: Matajaz Kacicnik/University of Basel, LHTT

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Bebionics Hand

Achieving Normal

Spurred by large numbers of returning veterans from World Wars I and II, huge improvements in prosthetic technology (often developed in partnership with the people who will use them) now offer those who have lost limbs greatly improved quality of life.

A recent paradigm shift — the ability to communicate directly with the brain via brain-computer interfaces — opens a new frontier for functional prosthetics, as well as new opportunities to help the over five million people in the country living with paralysis.

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Future Leg

Redefining Normal

The goal of medicine has always been to return people to "normal" -- but why stop at normal? A runner on metal blades will soon capture the human speed record. Prosthetic limbs are being designed not to merely mimic natural limbs, but to do more.

The question isn't whether we go down this road: we're already well on the way. The question is how far we go.

Photo Credit: Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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