Italian man to get first bionic hand that lets amputees physically ‘feel’

Feb 25, 2013 1393

The first bionic hand to let amputees physically "feel" what they are touching will be transplanted onto a human later this year.

An Italian man who lost the lower section of his arm in an accident will have the hand attached, via electrodes clipped on to two of his main nerves, directly to his nervous system.

Scientists say this should let him control the hand with his thoughts — and at the same time receive signals back to his brain from the hand's sensors.

By all accounts, they claim, he should feel like he is in possession of a fully functioning hand.

Dr. Silvestro Micera, of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, revealed details of the planned pioneering surgery at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston this week.

"This is real progress, real hope for amputees. It will be the first prosthetic that will provide real-time sensory feedback for grasping.

"It is clear that the more sensory feeling an amputee has, the more likely you will get full acceptance of that limb.
"We could be on the cusp of providing new and more effective clinical solutions to amputees in the next year.

"The idea would be that it could deliver two or more sensations. You could have a pinch and receive information from three fingers, or feel movement in the hand and wrist.
"We have refined the interface (connecting the hand to the patient), so we hope to see much more detailed movement and control of the hand."

The hand was initially developed as a research and educational tool by Prensilia, a spinoff firm of Italian public university Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna.

Scientists there have worked for more than two decades in developing the "new generation hand prostheses."

Micera said that the first patient, who is in his 20s and lives in Rome, will test the bionic hand for one month.
If successful, he claimed that fully working models could be available for amputees across the world within the next year.

It comes four years after an earlier, fixed, version of the hand was attached to Pierpaolo Petruzziello's nervous system in a similar manner.
Having lost his arm in a car accident, he said he could wiggle his fingers, clench them into a fist and hold objects.

But the amount of feeling was limited as the hand only had two sensory zones. The latest prototype will send sensory signals back from all the fingertips, the palm and the wrists.

by Lee Moran / The Daily News

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