“The Evolution of Prosthetics: From Hollywood Hooks to Mind-Blowing Nerve-Connected Hands”

Story by Mitchell Smith

Hello everybody. Today I’m taking a look at prosthetics, particularly prosthetic arms. Lost limbs have long been replaced, improved, and even glorified on the Hollywood Big Screen. When we think about the invention of prosthetic arms, probably our first image is the pirate with a hook. The hook has long been associated with pirates even creating famous characters like Captain Hook from Peter Pan and James Hook from Pirates of the Caribbean. Back in 1960 there was a 13 episode western called Tate. Tate played by David McLean lost the use of his left arm. A very primitive prosthetic had his arm wrapped in black leather and in a sling. He did not have use of this arm but never the less it added to the grit and fear of this character.

Fast forward to 1980, a little film call The Empire Strikes Back featured a fully functioning hand complete with movement, sensation, and likeness of a real human hand. 1990 reinvented prosthetics all together when Edward Scissorhands came onto the big screen. He had 2 fully functioning hands with each finger being a pair of scissors. Probably not what anyone would want but it worked for the movie. Bucky Barnes created in 1941 in the Marvel Comics was brought to life on the big screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we got to see his super human prosthetic arm in action this was cool but not human like for sure. Over the years there have been several other cool prosthetics in several different movies and in the 2021 series Humans The World Within, real life research has brought fantasy to reality. Jason Little is the first person to test a prosthetic hand that is hooked up to his nervous system. He is testing technology created by Ranu Jung and her team at Florida International University . They have developed a system that can be hooked up to the human nervous system and communicate back and forth. The prosthetic arm can feel and calculate pressure finely enough to hold an egg and crack it on the side of a frying pan. Her team had made great strides on understanding neurons and the communication with the brain.

There prosthetic can communicate to the nerves and let the brain know there is still a limb there. Their research shows that even when a limb is lost the brain still sends transmissions and when they tap into that the prosthetic communicates to the brain as if it is a natural hand. Lost limbs are a reality of life and we are on our way to having technology that has been fantasized in society for centuries. From a simple hook to a fully functioning replacement hand the world is moving into a great technological explosion in medicine. A replacement arm is just the tip, the research is leading us to be able to replace body parts and organs. Although we have had technology for the artificial heart that runs on a devise outside of the body. This research would hook the heart up naturally and require no device to operate it. it’s pretty mind blowing the technology we have today and even crazier to think where we will be in 50 years. Have a great week everyone.


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