When electrical line worker James Young lost both his arms in 2010 in a workplace accident, he had joined the long, grim list of those people who lose a limb – up to a million a year according to the World Health Organization.
However, doctors and scientists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) are developing cutting edge prosthetics to improve the lives of amputees. Today, advances in technology are enabling amputees to ride bikes, grip bottles and even run.
The market is lucrative: Össur, one of the world's leading prosthetics makers, estimates that in 2012, the size of the prosthetic market in the U.S., EMEA and Asia regions was between $850-$950 million.
(Read more: Apps that make your home smarter)
"Development is accelerating at an unprecedented pace," Dr Levi Hargrove said in Episode 3 of CNBC's Innovation Cities. "We're moving from devices that just open and close the hands, using hooks that are operated when they [patients] shrug their shoulders, to articulated fingers."
Scientists at the RIC have developed a procedure, targeted muscle reinnervation (TMI), which reassigns nerves that controlled arms and hands to pectoral muscles.
After surgery, patients are fitted with a prosthetic arm and are given therapy to strengthen their core muscles and training on how to use the arms. Once these nerves are reassigned, people with upper arm amputations are able control their prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action they want to perform.
(Read more: Can 'Big Brother' technology make cities safer?)
After a muscle transfer and nerve realignment surgery, Young is now ready to be fitted with prosthetics that will enable him to control his arms using his just his thoughts. "It's actually amazing, I actually feel these arms are part of me, and I'm running them, and [they're] not a foreign object," he said.