Waiting for a technology Miracle

Post from Jean Thilmany:

Today, medical technology can be seen as a panacea for everything. But sometimes the speedy pace of medical breakthrough can give a false impression, which is painful to those waiting for the promised technology.

As someone who was continually promised better living through technology, but who waited years to see that happen, I strongly empathized with news out last week from two universities in the Netherlands that the development of body-powered prosthetic hands has stagnated for over 20 years.

The study that spurred the news account offers a possible explanation for why over half of all people with a body-powered prosthetic hand do not use it or even wear it, researchers said in a statement. Today’s prosthetic hands perform equally or less well than those from 1987.

Body-powered prostheses don’t rely on an outside power source and are operated via a system of cables, harnesses, and sometimes, manual control. Other types of prostheses are powered by electricity.

We’ll expand on that study in an upcoming issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine. One takeaway is that the researchers at the Delft University of Technology and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that there is hardly any investment in body-powered prostheses and that cost may be one factor.

The retail price of an electric prosthesis is around 10 to 100 time higher than a body-powered prosthesis. This makes it more attractive commercially to invest in electric prostheses, according to the study.

Cost was a factor in my own wait as well. In my case, less than 1 percent of people globally are as severely myopic as myself. Laser surgery isn’t an option for us, as it would necessitate shaving off too much of the cornea to achieve the proper vision correction.

“Just wait,” the doctors said, as early as the 1980s. “Something will be available soon.”

But it wasn’t until around 10 years ago before the proper medical technology came down the pike. And then another few years before I felt surgeons had enough experience with it under their belts that I could take the plunge.

Seems weird to bellyache about myopia, but it did impact my quality of life. I wore glasses that had to be adjusted to within a millimeter for me to see properly. Without proper adjustment I’d get a seasick feeling that frequently sent me to bed.

When my glasses were moved off center, as happened all the time, say when my child pulled on them or I bumped my head into a swinging cabinet door, I had to go to the only optician in town who knew what I was talking about and knew how to adjust them with exactness. And I had to ask for him personally and leave if he wasn’t in.

Around 10 years ago, something did come up: phakic interocular lenses. Phakic IOLs are contact lenses inserted in front of or behind the iris.

Though the problem to correct severe myopic hasn’t been much worked on (see the less than 1 percent statistic), PIOLs are close enough to cataract surgery (in that case the clouded lens is removed before an artificial version is inserted) that it wasn’t hard to make the technology available.

I finally worked up the courage to have it done and yes it’s been a miracle. I can swim, for example. (I couldn’t before because I couldn’t see the pool or lake without my glasses and the big, colored blur was too dangerous to dive into).

I’m not trying to say I had a severe or life threatening medical condition. But even my little taste of waiting for technology makes me realize how market forces drive technology innovations.

5 Responses to “Waiting for a technology Miracle”

  1. December 14, 2013 at 11:30 am

    The brewers appropriate for k cups range in market price from $79 every one
    of the way as much as over $250 depending on how extravagant you wish to
    get using your bells and whistles. You could also get real milk creamer to make fantastic hot chocolate and cappuccinos and they have even great Hot Tea brands
    to select from. Reports of issues with even the basic models are rare.

  2. February 4, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    I got this web site from my friend who informed me concerning
    this web site and at the moment this time I am browsing this web site and reading very informative content here.

  3. July 5, 2014 at 5:54 am

    If there is no Sephora near your area, visit Sephora.

    as well as paperweights, beads, sculptures and installation art.
    For every review of yours we approve and publish on the website, we
    will add 20 points to your VGP account.

  4. August 8, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    My partner and I stumbled over here from a different
    web page and thought I should check things out. I like what I
    see so i am just following you. Look forward to going over your web page for a second

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

June 2012

Twitter from John Falcioni

Twitter from Engineering for Change

%d bloggers like this: