Prostheses are making a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world. A prosthesis is a artificial body part that is used to replace a missing body part, in order to live a normal life. The science of creating prostheses is called prosthetics.' Usually these artificial body parts are used to replace body parts that have been lost by injury or that were missing from birth.
The History of Prosthetics
Simple prostheses have been used since ancient times to replace missing teeth, arms, legs and other parts. The design and creation of prostheses have improved quite a lot over time. One of the more common prostheses over the years has been the use of fake teeth, or dentures, to help people who have lost their teeth chew food normally. Another common prosthesis is a wooden leg. Many people have seen pictures of a pirate with a leg missing. This pirate usually walks around with the help of a wooden leg connected to his knee.
Thus, for as long as humans have lost a leg, hand or foot to injury, prostheses have been around. Scientists have even found that Egyptians created prosthetic toes for people who had lost their big toe. These were used so that the people who had lost their toe could still walk.
One type of prosthesis is robotic. If a prosthesis is robotic, this means that it is able to move and behave much like the limb that is missing. For example, a robotic prosthetic hand is able to open and close, hold things and even use simple tools. For this kind of prosthesis to work, it must be able to be controlled by the body in some way. But how can a robotic arm know what a person wants to do? Through a biosensor. Biosensors connect to nerves, muscles and the skin so that they can receive signals from the person. People with a robotic prosthesis are able to do activities that they would never have been able to do without the artificial body part.
Another modern advance in prosthetics is something called cosmesis.' This technology concentrates on creating body parts that look and feel like real, human parts. These prostheses are expensive, but can help people who want to look like they have normal limbs. Scientists use this technology to make a prosthesis have exactly the same color and skin patterns as the person who will use the artificial limb.
Another important prosthetic technology assists severely injured athletes continue to compete. One man that uses this type of prosthetic leg is Oscar Pistorius, who is from South Africa. He lost his legs from his knees down. Because of this, he received two prosthetic legs that were not robotic, now were they designed to look just like legs. Instead, they were created to help him run. With his prosthetic legs, Oscar tried to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Despite much controversy, Oscar did very well, but did not qualify.
There are some other useful prosthetics that can help in different ways. One of these is called a gastric band. This does not replace a body part, but can help people who are morbidly obese lose fat quickly. A gastric band is put inside your body and around the top part of the stomach. Doctors tighten the band so that only a certain amount of food can move through it. In this way, people who are very overweight have to eat less, helping them lose weight more quickly. The gastric band has become a very popular prosthesis.
The field of prosthetics advances every year. It is possible that soon scientists will create a prosthetic heart for people with heart disease or other heart problems. What a world we live in!