Patrick Kane with his bionic arm
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'Day in the life with my bionic body'

Technology has always striven to match the incredible sophistication of the human body. Now electronics and hi-tech materials are replacing whole limbs and organs in a merger of machine and man.

BBC News is exploring the field of bionics in a series of features. It has looked at the latest scientific developments and will analyse the potential to take the technology even further, enhancing the body to superhuman levels.

Teenager Patrick Kane lost his left arm and right leg after contracting a vicious strain of meningitis and developing blood poisoning at nine months old.

The 14-year-old now uses a prosthetic leg - a selection are lined up in his bedroom, from the waterproof welly to a blade for running - as well as a pioneering bionic arm.

Patrick was fitted with the i-Limb Pulse about 18 months ago. He says it has changed his life - he is now able to do to more intricate things than he could before, and it has given him an extra level of independence.

More than 2,000 people worldwide, mainly in America, have been fitted with this arm from Touch Bionics.

It has two movements, opening and closing a fist, which respond to muscle contractions in Patrick's upper arm.

The latest version of the arm can increase pressure on an object, but no arm has yet to give the sense of touch. Patrick however uses this to his advantage - he is able to manipulate hot experiments in chemistry lessons, unlike his friends.

Other arms are being developed to allow increased dexterity. The Modular Prosthetic Limb gives 22 movements, including individual finger and wrist mobility. This uses a number of sensors in different locations to pick up muscle contraction in the residual limb, and complex algorithms to distinguish between similar signals to produce different movements.

Produced, filmed and edited by Anna-Marie Lever

  • 09 Mar 2012
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