Medical Moment: The company giving a helping hand to kids without them

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 5:42 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - Researchers have made bionic limbs for kids who are born without arms!

Those scientists developed a spin-off company called “Limbitless Solutions” and have continued improving those limbs! Scientists now want to know how the kids’ brains change when they do things most of us take for granted.

Limbitless Solutions, which Albert Manero co-founded as a graduate student at UCF along with John Sparkman ‘13 ‘15MS and Dominique Courbin ‘18, specializes in developing advanced, muscle-based biosensing technology, such as bionic limbs, to increase accessibility and empower children and adults in the limb-different community.

The study is unique because it combines advanced imaging techniques with novel prosthetics and video-game-based training to evaluate motor cortex engagement.

12-year-old Sami Atkinson’s arm is part function, part personal fashion.

“I just picked the color navy blue,” Atkinson recalled.

Sami was born with a condition that caused her arm to develop incompletely. Three years ago, she joined a trial being conducted by Limbitless. The scientists specialize in developing advanced, muscle-sensing technology.

“It’s not heavy anymore because I use all my muscles,” Atkinson explained.

The newest version of the bionic arm uses electromyography. When the muscles flex, they produce a voltage, like a battery!

“And with the same stickers that you would use for having an EKG on your chest, we can put them on the bicep muscle,” said Albert Manero, the Co-Founder of Limbitless Solutions. “And then, when that muscle is contracted, we read that signal and send it to the computer chip that’s in the hand. And that will tell the hand to do different gestures and routines.”

Next, the researchers want to know what changes are occurring in kids who were born without limbs, but now have prosthetics that can pinch and lift.

“We’re looking at seeing if there’s any changes in the brain and the functionality,” said Shea McLinden, a UCF Health Sciences student.

Atkinson said in the past three years, she’s been able to help with chores at home.

“I could fold laundry; I could fold shirts. I can fold anything,” Atkinson said.

The researchers said the prosthetics empower children at a time during their social development, when they may need validation most.

“Just always remember that you’re special,” Atkinson said.

The Limbitless Solutions team is also partnered with Dr. Albert Chi of the Oregon Health and Science University in the study. Dr. Chi is a trauma surgeon with expertise in biomedical engineering.