Young researcher leading Bangladesh in prosthetics .

A young researcher from Chittagong, Md Mofajjal Karim Chowdhury Rayhan takes a great leap forward as he successfully invents two new models of prosthetic arm that are functional and efficient in technology and cost significantly less than what is available in the market. As a researcher, what drives is not recognition, but the desire to fulfill the need of common people in Bangladesh. He wants to use scientific knowledge to respond to the problem of Bangladesh. Shoeb Karim writes about the journey of this young researcher.

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From the very beginning of human history artificial limbs or prosthetics are being used to substitute missing body parts. Even Rigveda, the oldest text has the mention of a prosthesis leg that supports Goddess Vishua. Many ancient art works depicting prosthesis still survive to prove prosthetics’ existence even in antiquity. Those primitive artificial limbs or prosthetics were purely cosmetic or aesthetic that means those were not at all functional.

From purely cosmetic to highly functional, the history of prosthesis advances a long way. But till this day it’s not affordable for most of the people worldwide. Even the cosmetic one costs $5000 which just provides the user a natural looking hand but not at all functional. A functional prosthetic arm ending in a split hook which naturally has a distorted look costs $10000. There is also a third kind which has nearly a realistic look and functionality, it is called myoelectric prosthetic arm, and this kind of arms can cost up to $20,000- $100,000. And naturally, Bangladesh is lagging far behind in the race, our country still stuck in the primitive era of prosthetics.

But Md Mofajjal Karim Chowdhury Rayhan, a young inventor from Chittagong takes a great leap forward as he successfully invents two new models of prosthetic arm that are functional and efficient in technology and cost no more than $50. The first one, a new a model of myoelectric prosthetic arm and the other is a brand new one that imports an automobile technique into the arena of biomedical physics.

The cost of myoelectric prosthetic arm available in the international market also varies. Whereas a myoelectric prosthetic for partial loss of a hand costs $ 18,703, it costs $61655 if the arm amputated from up to the shoulder (according to a study of US Department of Veterans Affairs Study). However, the cost of Rayhan’s model in every case will remain the same.

Myoelectric prosthesis is controlled by electric signals from the brain. In popular words this is a mind controlled device. To be specific, one can open or close this kind of prosthetic hand whenever the patient wants, enables grasping, carrying and then releasing whatever the bearer needs. Myoelectrode, a kind of sensor works as a bridge between the biochemical and the mechanical by converting the muscle activity into information that can be used by the motors to control the artificial limb movement. Rayhan also creates and uses a new model of myoelectrode sensor in his first model of artificial arm. Although he has no scientific proof, his intuition found it is harmful for human brain. So he devised a new model which is equally functional but will not use the electric signal from the brain. It substitutes the myoelectric sensor with a newer one that can detect our muscle movements which normally happens when we want to close or open our hand. His newer model works as efficiently as a ‘touchpad sensor’ but its tools and mechanism is totally different. And to devise this new sensor he used his knowledge of the automobile engineering, as he has a diploma degree on this discipline. According to him, a mechanism of valve timer of the engine head ignited the idea of devising this newer model of sensor.

 

Rayhan’s research journey is not limited only in prosthetics. Beside he also devised a railway system that can sense and alarm any kinds of disconnection in the rail line that can make train journey safer. He devised this system when Bangladesh regularly is experiencing rail accident due to sabotages like uprooting the rail fishplates and what not. When he came to know about the bank heist at the Shonali Bank Kishorgonj branch in 2014, he devised a laser security system that can detect any unexpected entrance at the vault room and alarm the authority which is as efficient as watchman technology and other laser security devises available but way cheaper than them. As earthquake trembles Bangladesh for several times in recent years, he tries to devise a earth quake prediction devise that can detect the release of seismic energy and may alarm the people at least five minutes prior to the disaster. His every invention is a timely response to the country’s need proves him as the true inventor for Bangladesh. The capital for his invention is his imagination and his ready understanding of the mechanism of any machine. The creative faculty of his mind allows him solve problems by creating mechanisms which, according to him, are stunningly simple. And that’s how he devises sensors without knowing the types or names of them, without knowing the word ‘prosthetics’. He just knows peoples need and the mechanical impediments of them, and then solves the problems by devising new mechanisms. None or nothing but his inclination inspired him most, the ease of comprehending or creating machine makes him obsessed with conceiving and implementing new ideas. And to be on his own way, his family gives him a supportive environment which makes it possible for him to be a full-time researcher with the help of his obsession to make science relevant for people. Sometimes, it becomes dangerous working in a small room turned into a laboratory, and sometimes it’s impossible for him to be investors, because sometime his dream projects needs real labs and real business contracts with a lot of technical expertise as well as hand.

Till now the media coverage he gets has deemed him as a ‘little scientist’ who is fantastic  enough to be amazed but never covers his any projects as profitable and economically feasible that can attract any investors. So naturally none come up with any business proposal to commercialise any of his inventions, people call him to donate money to help him instead. Till now media loves to use phrases or at least nuances like ‘little but brilliant’ or ‘brilliant but poor’, and that’s how they make the important news ‘fantastic’.

Rayhan consciously doesn’t go for patent right of his two models of prosthetic arms because he thinks that the expensive procedure for patent is one of the secrets that makes many essentially cheap product costly.

Personally reproducing it and supplying it to the people in need of prosthetic arm is almost near to impossible. Producing it in industrial scale will make us capable to meet the country’s need and to export it overseas. By offering the world with cheapest functional prosthesis Bangladesh can become the leader in prosthetic industry, if and only if the investors of the country properly commercialise this model of prosthetic arm. Though Rayhan have no problem with any foreign investments if they agree to set the industry in Bangladesh as he thinks importing any essentially homegrown product is a kind of deception, which makes the product unaffordable for most of the people of the country. Rayhan said ‘My inventions are for the people not just for the rich’.

 

Shoeb Karim is a student of Chittagong University.

 

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