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Barbie doll parts make great prosthetic fingers: ResearcherCHARLOTTE, (USA): Barbie, the leggy plastic companion of millions of girls wor...

Barbie doll parts make great prosthetic fingers: Researcher

CHARLOTTE, (USA): Barbie, the leggy plastic companion of millions of girls worldwide, has found a new purpose — donating her body to science.

It turns out that the plastic doll knee joints in Barbie’s long, shapely legs make good knuckles in prosthetic fingers for people who have lost part of a hand, says Jane Bahor, a university researcher here.

Bahor, who makes lifelike body parts for amputees at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, has used knees from old Barbie dolls to make new fingers for about a dozen patients. “She’s made her cultural contribution, now she can make a medical contribution,” Bahor said.

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Bahor and patient, Jennifer Jordan, then a North Carolina State University engineering student, came up with the idea three years ago while trying to make Jordan’s prosthetic finger more realistic and useful.

They thought about the popular Mattel doll’s easy-to-bend knees, and Jordan brought in some of her old dolls.Bahor, an anaplastologist, took them apart to find a “simple little ratchet joint” that fits inside a flexible foam digit.

“It’s working out well for several patients,” said Bahor, whose colleagues around the country are also testing the idea. “A lot of us have played around with the Barbie joint.”


Mattel was also impressed by the idea, and sent Bahor a bag full of free Barbie parts. “Everybody here is really excited that Barbie not only brings joy to little girls but also can help adults who have had accidents,” said Mattel spokeswoman Lisa McKendall.

Wearers bend the fingers the same way they would bend Barbie’s leg.They can use their other hand to bend the joint. Just like Barbie’s legs, the fingers stay bent until the owner straightens them again. The pliable prosthetic fingers make it easier for an amputee to hold a pen, pick up a cup, grip the steering wheel or do other daily tasks, Bahor said.

For years feminist critics have argued that Barbie’s unrealistic proportions seared anunattainable body image into the minds of girls.


“After all these years of being maligned,” Bahor said, “she’s finally come up with a social conscience.”

First published on: 29-08-1999 at 12:00:00 am
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