Now, prosthetic hands that move each finger separately

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Washington, April 23 : Experts at the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg are testing a new prosthetic hand that functions almost like a natural hand.

The investigators say that this prosthetic hand can move each finger separately and has an astounding range of grip configurations.

They say that this prosthetic hand can hold a credit card, use a keyboard with the index finger, and even lift a bag weighing up to 20 kg.

Eighteen-year-old Soren Wolf, a patient who was born with only one hand, tested "i-LIMB" hand in comparison with another innovative prosthesis called "Flu-idhand", and was filled with excitement after observing its capabilities.

The new prosthetic hand, developed and distributed by the Scottish company "Touch Bionics", contains five motors that enable each of its fingers to be powered individually.

A passive positioning of the thumb enables various grip configurations to be activated.

Electrodes used in the prosthetic hand picks up muscle signals from the skin, and transfer them to the control electronics.

The requisite power to propel the hand comes from batteries.

The "Fluidhand" from Karlsruhe is the other device tested by Soren, which offers better finishing and better grip function.

The investigators have revealed that it feels softer, more elastic, and more natural than conventional hard prosthetic devices.

Soren has been the only patient in Heidelberg who has tested both models, they say.

"This experience is very important for us," says Simon Steffen, Director of the Department of Upper Extremities at the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg.

The two new models were the best of those tested, with a slight advantage for Fluidhand because of its better finishing, the programmed grip configurations, power feedback, and the more easily adjustable controls.

But this prosthetic device is not in serial production.

"First the developers have to find a company to produce it," says Alfons Fuchs, Director of Orthopedics Engineering at the Orthope-dic University Hospital in Heidelberg, as the costs of manufacturing it are comparatively high.

The researchers, however, admit that it is possible to produce an individual model.

They say that a second patient will soon be fitted with this innovative prosthesis in Heidelberg.

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