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Radio Shows | The Hope for St. Luke's Arm | mp3wmawav

The Hope for St. Luke's ArmSomething that stands out in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the number of soldiers who are losing limbs.

In fact itís at twice the rate of any previous American war.

Thatís partly because our troops are encountering improvised explosive devices. Though soldiers wear body armor, it only protects their vital organs, not their limbs and theyíre surviving because of better medical care in the field.

For those who lose a leg, fortunately leg prostheses have become so advanced that amputee athletes actually have an advantage over their whole bodied competitors.

However, the technology for arms and hands has lagged.

The reason is simple: our arms and hands are much more complex. So several years ago the federal government decided to fund research in this area and for the first time we may have robot hands that deliver.

Computer chips and wireless technology are part of these new, extremely mobile robot hand that can pinch, grip and flex. Some even have sensors that pick up minute signals from an amputeeís nerves and can actually move in response to thought.

One of these amazing prosthetic hands was developed by Deka Research and Development. The 18 million dollar project produced the "Luke Arm", named after the Star Wars character Luke Skywalkerís robotic hand.

Itís light enough to be worn by a medium sized woman and can be cased inside a silicone mold, customized to match the wearer. One amputee vet was able to hold a flimsy bottle of water and drink from it, moving him to tears.

The Luke Arm has 18 of the 22 degrees of freedom of a normal arm and users can even gently pick up a grape. Itís now undergoing a three-year study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the cost: one hundred thousand dollars per arm.

That may be out of reach for most people, but itís a start.


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For more information…

To read a story about Dean Kamen's arm prosthesis that is part of a series about advances in prosthetic arms. You can also watch the video of the "Luke Arm" in action.

For another story and images of the artificial arm go here and another with additional links here.

Washington Post honors the fallen. Faces of the Fallen is a collection of information about each U.S. service member who died in Iraq and Afghanistan during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. This information is updated at least twice monthly from military releases, news service reports and local newspaper stories. The photographs come from news services, local newspapers and family members. For more information…


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