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Medical Breakthroughs

Medical Breakthroughs

Silicon Chip Sheds Light on Retinal Disease-After 33 years of darkness, Bob Rosene can now see light. The 68-year-old retired computer programmer can't make out images or shadows, but the dark shade of blindness that has blocked his vision for all those years is now more translucent, he says, and light has begun seeping in.

Technology Lends a Hand-When Rugers professor William Craelius and one of his biomedical engineering graduate students decided to develop an improved hand prosthesis, they first took note of what hand amputees said they needed most-the ability to tap a finger on a computer keyboard. Exisiting artificial hands didn't allow that. Their one or two hfingers and a thumb could only grasp and hold things. But graduate student Ricki Abboudi and Craelius, director of the Orthotics and Prosthetics Laboratory at Rutgers' Departments of Biomedical Engineering, thought finger taping-even though a big step forward in hand prostheses-wasn't enough. Instead, they set as their goal an artificial hand that could perform light office work, including typing and using a mouse. Now, the latest version of their hand prosthesis, with improvements from other graduate students, is doing that. One amputee has even used it to play the piano.

Medical Models-On August 6, fifty medical professionals at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA prepared to undertake a rare and delicate surgery: the separation of one-year-old Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez and her sister Maria de Jesus, craniopagus twins, joined at the head. Doctors were well rehearsed. Before sliping on their surgical gloves, they had practiced their routines down to each incision, using exact replicas of the girls' anatomy-rapid prototypes created from computerized tomography (CT) scans taken two months earlier.

Inactive Models get Bionic Boost- A new device under development at the Alfred E. Mann Institute at the University of Southern California (USC) promises to help patients suffering from a huge range of disabilities caused by weak and paralyzed muscles. The tiny, individually addressable, single channel electrical stimulator, trademarked by the Institute under the name BION (BIONic neuron), does not require surgery, but rather can be injected by any physician into one or more muscles through a 12-gauge hypodermic needle. Power and appropriate control data reach each ION via an externally worn radio frequency (RF) device.

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