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Eric Jones holding Lego block with ProDigits  (Source: Touch Bionics)
Device can cost over $70,000

Most of us take little things like holding a glass or brushing our teeth for granted. For some people who have lost hands or fingers, these tasks can be impossible to accomplish without help or specialized equipment.

A new generation of bionic fingers has been unveiled by a company called Touch Bionics. The company is developing advanced upper-limb bionic technologies and has announced the official launch of its ProDigits bionic finger. ProDigits are the world's first powered bionic solution for people who have lost fingers.

The ProDigits prosthetics are custom built for each application by clinicians to insure that they function ideally for the patient. ProDigits are controlled by using one of two methods. Either myoelectric sensors that register muscle signals from the residual finger or palm can be used or a pressure sensitive switch in the form of a force sensitive resistor or a touchpad can be used to control the fingers. The last approach relies on the remnant of the finger or the tissue surrounding the metacarpal bone to provide the necessary pressure to activate the finger.

One user of the ProDigits prosthetic Michael Bailey said, "Honestly, I had only put it [ProDigits] on for five minutes and I was getting it to work just fine. It feels like it belongs there, like it’s part of me."

The Telegraph reports that the ProDigits device costs between £35,000 and £45,000 and requires no surgery. That works out to roughly $57,000 to $73,000 USD. The chances of patients' insurance actually covering this prosthetic is slim meaning that the ProDigits system will be well out of the reach of most people who could benefit from the technology.

A range of coverings can be chosen by the patient including clear skins and a "livingskin" pattern that is natural looking. ProDigits hope to work with the National Health Service in the future for payments in Europe.

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By CommodoreVic20 on 12/9/2009 12:08:19 PM , Rating: 5
It saddens me to think that the people that would probably need these the most like construction workers, steal mill workers and other dangerous blue collar workers would never be able to afford these after an accident.

Our health care sucks people, admit it, lets just hope we never loose a finger typing here at DT.

RE: Lame
By Sahrin on 12/9/09, Rating: 0
RE: Lame
By SublimeSimplicity on 12/9/09, Rating: -1
RE: Lame
By bigdawg1988 on 12/9/2009 3:11:57 PM , Rating: 5
So they don't do medical research in countries with socialized medicine?

RE: Lame
By bigdawg1988 on 12/9/2009 3:16:02 PM , Rating: 2
Whoops, my bad. You were being sarcastic, right?

RE: Lame
By lightfoot on 12/9/2009 3:31:54 PM , Rating: 2
In the United States, roughly 57% of all research funding is provided by the Federal Government. 3% is provided by non-profit charities. 29% is funded by for-profit medical companies. the remaining 11% is provided by state and local governments.

So yes, even with socialized medicine we would still have medical research, but it would be reduced by roughly 30%.

RE: Lame
By Sahrin on 12/9/2009 6:31:49 PM , Rating: 2
You leave out the part where there is no compulsion to spend the money.

First, government directed research generally sucks (this is admitted by NSF and NIH officals).

Second, rightly or wrongly, without multi-billion dollar corporations and universities and hospitals and independent research facilities (which make their money providing for-profit services to the public) lobbying congress to spend the money, how much of that 57% do you think would be spent?

Hell, the entire F-22 program exists today as a result of lobbying. I love the plane, it is an amazing and unequaled piece of technology - but it exists because Lockheed and DoD lobbied congress and convinced them to spend the money. If there were no Air Force or Lockheed Martin, there would be no money - and therefore no F-22.

RE: Lame
By mallums on 12/13/2009 4:26:21 AM , Rating: 2
I love the F22. But it's a failure. In general, I agree with you, I think, but the F22 is a bad example.

(I think the problems with the F22 can be fixed, but it's cancelled, so, moot point. I think we need an F22-like plane, but they say not, a cheaper, dumber plane is more appropriate for current "defense" needs. [sarcasm] Whatever. [/sarcasm])

RE: Lame
By SublimeSimplicity on 12/9/2009 6:46:22 PM , Rating: 2
They definitly do medical research in countries with socialized medical systems. However it's in the hope that they can sell it to the US population, not to take whatever some government panel deems it's worth.

If you meant government funded research, why would they spend money to research something that would only help someone's standard of living? At the cost of more expenditures.

RE: Lame
By philosofa on 12/10/2009 8:12:48 PM , Rating: 1
The research for this device (and its manufacture) was done in the UK - a country with a socialised health care system. Assuming you're not being sarcastic, your post is actually... just made of awesome and funny wrapped tightly together. Let me guess, you'd be a... republican? Perhaps one who has never had a passport and can't identify Canada on a worldmap - perhaps this could be an example of why you should jsut... try and 'know' more things?

p.s. yes Republicans as a whole can be great people, however those who believe government healthcare involves 'death panels' etc truly do deserve a fair bit of derision.

RE: Lame
By mallums on 12/13/2009 4:33:20 AM , Rating: 2
Uh, excuse me? Death panels exist. Private hospitals and public ones both have them. They are mostly ad hoc committees. My uncle was allowed to die because of the decision of such a committee. (Usually, they are called ethics boards. But they decide life and death.)

RE: Lame
By mallums on 12/13/2009 4:36:03 AM , Rating: 2
Let me make a correction. "Ethics boards" are not ad hoc so much. But still, they exist, and that is what they do.

RE: Lame
By CommodoreVic20 on 12/9/2009 5:23:25 PM , Rating: 3
I suppose your poor level of reading comprehension, arrogance or lack of awareness is probably worse than losing a finger or a hand for that matter.

I never mentioned 'a socialized health care system'. All I said was our system sucks. I do support improvement of our system and I am not necessarily behind any proposals.

I think French and British hourly and millionaire amputees are beyond any scope of my original comment. I surprised your rant did not go into the JFK conspiracy or the inner workings of the KKK.

RE: Lame
By Sahrin on 12/9/09, Rating: -1
RE: Lame
By Insomniator on 12/9/09, Rating: 0
RE: Lame
By ChoreBoy on 12/9/2009 1:15:24 PM , Rating: 2
give one of these "hands" or "fingers" to a construction worker, let him whack it with a hammer a couple times as he pounds a nail, see what happens. real fingers hold up much better. especially when it's time to wash your hands at the end of the day.

RE: Lame
By kkshoe1210 on 12/9/09, Rating: -1
RE: Lame
By intelpatriot on 12/10/2009 5:50:28 AM , Rating: 2
There are probably a lot less construction workers etc with missing fingers in countries with so-called "socialised" health systems,

because they won't have been asked "how many fingers can you afford to save?" at the time of their accident.

It is only in the United States (out of the advanced economies) that people suffer amputation because they are unable to afford the alternatives.

What happened to?
By Anoxanmore on 12/9/2009 11:43:11 AM , Rating: 3
I thought were had the ability to attempt to grow limbs back... did that fizzle out?

(Yes a first serious reply from me, I couldn't think of a Princess Bride quote to make it fit this particular article. Sad day, I know)

RE: What happened to?
By amanojaku on 12/9/2009 11:50:48 AM , Rating: 2
No, regeneration of whole, complex structures is practically impossible. That's why stem cell research is popular, and the recent lift on the stem cell ban may help advance this area of research.

RE: What happened to?
By geddarkstorm on 12/9/2009 1:18:12 PM , Rating: 2
The axolotl would like to have a word with you.

The MRL strain of super regenerative mice also has shed light on why we don't regenerate well. It appears to be mostly the result of our immune system. Since we also know the axolotl doesn't regenerate because it has pluripotent cells, but that it's simply mediated by the vanilla adult stem cells, it seems perfectly possible for mammals to have the same capabilities if we can understand how the immune system stops tissue regeneration and promotes scarring.

RE: What happened to?
By Reclaimer77 on 12/9/2009 4:00:07 PM , Rating: 2
Stem cell research wasn't banned. Federal funding for certain lines was. If it's that groundbreaking and important, you should be able to find investors and fund it yourself.

RE: What happened to?
By jkresh on 12/9/2009 4:40:40 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct that the research was not banned, federal funding was limited. The unfortunate thing was/is that most early/basic research (the stage that embryonic stem cells are currently at) is done in universities with either federal funding or grants from some foundations, corporations/investors/venture firms tend to wait until things are closer to market before getting involved. Foundations tend to be nervous when there is controversy and if they feel that funding something (even if it could be valuable) might bring undue negative attention they may focus on other areas. Limiting of federal funding slowed down advances in embryonic stem cell research.

RE: What happened to?
By intelpatriot on 12/10/2009 5:43:53 AM , Rating: 2
That's not the kind of thing private finance has ever liked to finance. Except in science fiction movies.

Nearly all fundamental science has been government (oh no!) funded.

Once we've progressed from science to technology, then the private sector performs admirably (empirically/historically better than the alternatives).

RE: What happened to?
By mallums on 12/13/2009 4:16:13 AM , Rating: 2
Young children that lose a finger or toe occasionally grow a new one, so it is certainly not impossible. The goal should be finding out how that happens. (Like any lizard tail that grows back, the regrown digit is inferior to the original. But hey, better than borrowing toes to use as fingers.)

RE: What happened to?
By Redwin on 12/9/2009 12:02:29 PM , Rating: 5
No Princess Bride quote!?

Inigo Montoya: "I do not mean to pry, but you don't by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?"

Not yet, but that model should be available in Summer 2011!

RE: What happened to?
By Anoxanmore on 12/9/2009 12:25:40 PM , Rating: 2
lol, alright that one got a giggle out of me, well done. :-)

RE: What happened to?
By Whedonic on 12/9/2009 12:15:56 PM , Rating: 2
As I understand it, research is still being done on limb regeneration, but it's still a long way from being viable. In the meantime, highly functional prosthetics like this are the best we have.

RE: What happened to?
By elgueroloco on 12/9/2009 2:49:53 PM , Rating: 2
AFAIK, they were able to get the soft tissue and even fingernails to grow back, but not the bones. They are working on that now.

I think they should try combining soft tissue regeneration with bionics so you could have things like Luke Skywalker's mechanical hand or Will Smith's bionic arm from "I, Robot."

RE: What happened to?
By NullSubroutine on 12/9/2009 3:57:14 PM , Rating: 2,2933,353636,00.html

What you were thinking about. Last I heard they were still in trials and the military had given funding.

By ajira99 on 12/9/2009 12:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
I suppose any advancement in this field should be applauded, but it seems to me that "advanced bionic" technology would leverage proprioception or even phantom limb syndrome to better "approximate" the lost limb. In this case, an actual bionic finger that uses electrical impulses to represent sensory touch (instead of piezoelectric pins ala braille terminals), not an interchangeable hand built for a specific task. Geez, as a kid I was building robotic arms that could pick up eggs and stacks cans under computer control.

RE: Meh...
By Anoxanmore on 12/9/2009 12:46:20 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, the next step will be for it to be implanted on the area added to said lost limb, and then being able to feel. Although I think those days are quite a few years off, if not decades.

RE: Meh...
By chagrinnin on 12/10/2009 1:43:24 AM , Rating: 2
I lost my finger years ago in an accident. You don't know how much you depend on something until it's gone. I'd give anything to have my finger pulled just once more. :P

$70,000 per finger?
By aguilpa1 on 12/9/2009 12:18:37 PM , Rating: 2
Is that $70,000 per finger or the whole hand?

RE: $70,000 per finger?
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/10/2009 6:39:02 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know but you only need one bionic finger to give someone else a bionic bird. :P

Still not good enough
By tyson766 on 12/9/2009 2:40:29 PM , Rating: 2
Prosthetic limbs will not be a good replacement for the real thing until a nerve interface is created. Whats the problem in picking up the signal from the brain to a nerve, and directly converting it to an electrical signal that can be used to control the prosthetic?

RE: Still not good enough
By Jacerie on 12/10/2009 2:56:58 AM , Rating: 2
Well... there is that whole reading and converting signals from a chemically based system into an electrically based system. There has been progress, but nowhere near the level required for anything involving real dexterity.

lego my legos
By invidious on 12/9/2009 12:14:37 PM , Rating: 2
Should have built the arm out of Legos, would be cheaper to fix the parts that break.

True Love..
By boobot on 12/9/2009 12:19:25 PM , Rating: 2
Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father. The Man in Black makes it now.

By wwwcd on 12/9/2009 1:33:40 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, in my hand, I have $350 000!

I want one!
By lightfoot on 12/9/2009 3:37:08 PM , Rating: 2
I want one for my car! That way if someone cuts me off or tailgates me I can press a button on the steering wheel that deploys the bionic finger. That would save me a great deal of effort as well as the aggravation of having to take my hands off the wheel.

As A CAPper
By Esquire on 12/9/2009 11:46:56 AM , Rating: 1
this is cool and will help many people.

Then I won't have to play video games with my face.

Be awesome

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