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FDA Approves Robotic Hand and Arm

Update Date: May 12, 2014 10:34 AM EDT

Patients who have lost their arms or hands might have more treatment options available. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has approved the Deka Arm, which is equipped with fingers, for use by medical authorities. The arm, created by New Hampshire-based DEKA Research and Development Corp, can give amputees many of their hand and arm movements back.

The Deka Arm project was funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which reportedly gave $40 million to the project. The robotic arm has fingers that are very similar to real ones and can perform everyday tasks, such as zipping up clothes and unlocking doors. The arm itself has a lot more range in comparison to other robotic arms that were engineered in the past. The Deka arm uses electrodes that can identify tiny muscle movements that the body makes while learning how to use the arm's 10 movement features.

"It was designed to produce near-natural upper extremity control to injured people who have suffered amputations," Darpa spokesman Justin Sanchez stated to Reuters. "This prosthetic limb system can pick up objects as delicate as a grape, as well being able to handle very rugged tools like a hand drill.

The approval was made after the agency examined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study that enrolled 36 people to help test out the robotic arm. From the study, the researchers had reported that 90 percent of the participants were able to use the device effectively. The FDA announced that the product would be available for people who have lost their limb at the shoulder joint, at the mid-upper arm, or the mid-lower arm points. People who experienced limb loss occurring at the elbow or wrist joint will not qualify for the product.

The FDA's press release, "FDA allows marketing of first prosthetic arm that translates signals from person's muscles to perform complex tasks," can be accessed here.

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