Bionic Hand Gives Student New Lease on Life

A student who lost his left hand in an accident three years ago has been fitted with the world’s most sophisticated prosthetic limb.

Evan Reynolds, 19, took only minutes to learn how to manipulate the i-LIMB, which is operated by tiny sensors resting against his arm muscles.

With his new hand he can now pick up a paper cup filled with water, peel a carrot or walk down the street eating chips, all activities he could only dream about before.

PHOTOS: Click here to see the i-LIMB.

The $15,000 i-LIMB was developed by the Scottish company Touch Bionics and Reynolds is only the second person in the U.K. to be fitted with one. Unlike previous prosthetics, the hand can tell how tightly it is gripping, allowing the user a large degree of control.

Reynolds, a sports biology student at University of the West of England, was in a friend’s car hanging his hand out of the window when it was taken off by a wooden gate post. His life was saved by his quick-thinking friends who applied a tourniquet and stopped him bleeding to death but the accident wrecked his dreams of joining the British Army.

The i-LIMB was introduced in 2007 and has won awards for its innovative technology. About 450 people, most in the United States, have been fitted with the prosthetic hand so far. Reynolds said it has given him a new lease on life.

“The accident was very nasty. My hand was amputated in a second,” he said.

"After the accident I'd resigned myself to never being able to use it again. But it truly has changed my life. It truly is incredible.”

Each finger of the i-LIMB is controlled by its own individual motors allowing a much more sensitive grip than previous prosthetics, which were limited to a claw-like action. It is fitted to the stump with a socket that contains the rechargeable battery and sensors that detect currents in the muscles which would have controlled the hand.

''It's so sensitive I can grip a bottle of water or a paper cup without crushing it and even swing a racket,” Reynolds said.

''All I have to do is imagine picking something up or gripping it and the fingers and thumb move automatically.”

Time Magazine named the i-LIMB as one of the Top 50 inventions of 2008 and Touch Bionics won the Limbless Association's Prosthetic Product Innovation Award for the product.

Click here to read more from the London Times.