A 21-year old Lithuanian boy, Martynas Girulis, who was born with a neuromuscular disease that left him unable to use his arms, has undergone a bionic reconstruction surgery, and is now able to control his bionic arm with his brain.
Austrian Dr. Oskar Aszmann performed the operation in Vienna in November and is a world expert in reconstructive surgery. He said, "He's the first patient with a birth defect to undergo bionic reconstruction. This has never been done before. Bionic arms and hands are not new. But unlike previous recipients, who were amputees, Girulis had a useless limb from birth. His case takes the use of bionic transplants an important step further, because he had never used the limb and so had to train his brain on how to operate it."
Girulis was born with arthrogryposis, a neuromuscular disease that prevented him from rotating and flexing the muscles in his arms and, to a lesser extent, in his legs. He learnt to walk at the age of 6-years after having undergone six major surgeries in Lithuania and Sweden and has always needed someone to help him throughout the day.
Girulis discovered Dr. Aszmann and his work on the internet. Before Dr. Aszmann could perform the elective amputation, he had to transplant nerves into Girulis's shoulder for him to be able to control his new limb. Girulis also had to train his shoulder muscles for almost a year and had muscle transplanted from his thigh. To get the hang of it, Girulis practiced with a virtual hand on the computer, wherein he would move it mentally with the help of electrodes, all while controlling his muscle activity on another screen. Every time Girulis moved his arm, he would hear a beep meant to make him fully aware of the motion he was making.
Dr. Aszmann plans to publish an article on this case, after making sure Girulis's bionic arm continues to work well over the long term.