Bionic limb centre for region under study

A clinical centre in the Middle East to fit patients with the world’s most advanced bionic fingers and hands is under study, it was revealed today (26 January 2010) at the Arab Health Exhibition and Congress taking place in Dubai.

The technology behind the “robotic” hands and fingers that look and act like the real thing, was demonstrated to HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, during his visit to Arab Health earlier this week.

“I was able to show Sheikh Mohammed that the hands function not just on a cosmetic basis but you can, for example, grip a cup of hot tea,” said UK Business Ambassador Lord Darzi, an eminent surgeon in the field of robotics, a former government health minister and the keynote speaker on robotic surgery at Arab Health.

Touch Bionics, the UK developer of advanced upper-limb technologies, is exhibiting bionic hands, fingers and artificial “living skin” at Arab Health, taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre until 28 January 2010 and featuring more than 2700 exhibiting companies from 70 countries.

Guarav Mishra, International Business Development Director for Touch Bionics, said the company plans to expand in the Middle East and has had expressions of interest from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait. “We are also exploring the possibility of our own clinical centre in the region to train people in the technology as well as clinically treat them,” he added.

Lord Darzi also praised Qatar for the leading regional role it is playing in the fast-developing field of robotic surgery. Lord Darzi is a world leading surgeon at Imperial College London specialising in the field of minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery, pioneering many new techniques and technologies.

Iraq-born Ara Warkes Darzi, who received his medical training in Ireland and moved to the UK in 1990, was awarded a knighthood for his services to medicine and surgery and became a life peer in the House of Lords, the upper house of the UK Parliament, as Baron Darzi of Denham.

Imperial College London is partnering with Qatar Science and Technology Park in setting up the Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre. “We are delighted to be working with Qatar on what is going to be a regional centre for robotic surgery and we hope there will be areas of joint innovation,” Lord Darzi said.

He described robotic surgery as still being in its infancy. “It is like when Henry Ford introduced his first car and you could get any colour as long as it was black. Innovation in the next five years in areas of robotic surgery…will have a huge impact on quality of life after surgery,” he added.

The Arab Health Exhibition and Congress is the largest gathering of healthcare professionals in the Middle East and the flagship of the Life Sciences Division of IIR Middle East, the largest trade and consumer event business in the region.

Arab Health also features the world’s biggest multi-track medical congress at which healthcare professionals can earn continuing medical education credits. The 2010 conferences, sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic Centre for Continuing Education, are attended by more than 5,500 attendees.