Prosthetics are the artificially designed body parts that can be used in place of a missing body part in a patient lost through trauma, disease or congenital conditions. The prosthetic amputee rehabilitation is a multi-level procedure carried out by an Orthotist, Prosthetist and an inter-disciplinary team of health care providers including surgeons, physiotherapists, psychiatrists.
Robotics in Prosthetics: Following a major amputation, the patient is prescribed to go for prosthetic limb or body part by the doctor. After long sessions of discussions, diagnosis, imaging procedures and several interactions between the patient and the prosthetics specialists, the required prostheses are constructed. Then comes the integration of robotics technology. Using robotic mechanisms, the automated and sensor-enabled metal and plastic devices come to an aid for restoring the normal functioning & movements of a lost limb in the patient. The mechanical look of the new age robotic prostheses are masked with advanced plastic coating exactly resembling the skin texture of the recipient. The robotic limbs are electronically controlled, and high-end computer program run in the background of their functioning; in further advanced versions, sensor chips connect the control panel with the patient's brain to offer the patient a more comfortable & convenient experience. Breakthrough research studies on sensory feedback using intraneural electrodes and other innovation are even aimed at allowing patients to "feel" with artificial prosthetics.
3D Bioprinting - Add-on to Prosthetics: If we look at themerits and demerits of robotic prostheses we can find—
- A robotic prosthetic looks similar to the real body and it hides the amputation
- The prosthetics can comfortably fit on the limb joints - flexible sockets are at help
- Complete control over a robotic arm is almost impossible, but to give the patient a real-life feel, artificial intelligence is integrated through inputs from internal sensors (IMUs, encoders, force sensors, etc.). In this way the limb technically adapts to anyactivity the person is performing
- Traditional prosthetics have poor fitting issues and the compatible spare parts are limited
- Robotic prosthetics are very expensive.Some prosthetics need custom fabrication of the carbon fiber sockets, thus increasing the cost
- Metal and plastic prosthetic limb results in increase in weight, maintenance is complex and needed to be done frequently
- If harness is not fitted well or socket of prosthetic shrinks severe pain and swelling may occur
- Cost management leads to use of different types/brands of modern prosthetic parts. But that again suffers from lack of interchangeability.
Now the innovative use of 3D bioprinting in prosthetics is poised to bring in a solution to the problem. The process of 3D bioprinting mimics the natural process of bio-development by embryonic cellular fusion. Target limbs that needs to be created as a prosthetic are scanned from all perspectives using computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasonic scan. The image is a 3-dimensional detailed design of that target limb/organ, and simultaneously thebioprinter machines prints the bio-inks (consisting of necessary cells, cell aggregates, peptides, growth factors, etc.) on the gel matrix in a layer-by-layer mechanism. The output is not only exactly identical and accurate to the lost limb, also it can be customized to create nearly anything ranging from soft tissue structure of fingers to an implantable titanium pelvis.The limbs created with this technological finesse are also very much comfortable and the patient can easily relate to the homogenous feeling without the mechanical hitch of prosthetics.
Simple robotic mechanisms equipped with 3D bioprinting technology in the field of prosthetics, can revolutionize post-amputation rehabilitation and health care.