Bionic hand allows patient to 'feel'

 

Dennis Aabo was able to feel what was in his hand via sensors connected to nerves in his upper arm

Scientists have created a bionic hand which allows the amputee to feel lifelike sensations from their fingers.

A Danish man received the hand, which was connected to nerves in his upper arm, following surgery in Italy.

Dennis Aabo, who lost his left hand in a firework accident nearly a decade ago, said the hand was "amazing".

In laboratory tests he was able to tell the shape and stiffness of objects he picked up, even when blindfolded.

The details were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Implant

An international team carried out the research project, which included neuroscientists, engineers, surgeons and robotics experts from Italy, Switzerland and Germany.

Start Quote

It was a very exciting moment when after endless hours of testing....Dennis turned to us and said with disbelief, 'This is magic! I can feel the closing of my missing hand!'”

End Quote Dr Stanisa Raspopovic Bioengineer, EPFL Lausanne

"It is the first time that an amputee has had real-time touch sensation from a prosthetic device" said Prof Silvestro Micera, neuro-engineer, from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa.

The scientific advance here was not the hand itself, but the electronics and software that enabled it to give sensory feedback to the brain.

Micera and his team added sensors to the artificial hand which could detect and measure information about touch. Using computer algorithms, the scientists transformed the electrical signals they emitted into an impulse that sensory nerves could interpret.

During an operation in Rome, four electrodes were implanted onto nerves in the patient's upper arm. These were connected to the artificial sensors in the fingers of the prosthetic hand, so allowing touch and pressure feedback to be sent direct to the brain.

Mr Aabo, 36, a property developer, spent a month doing laboratory tests, firstly to check the electrodes were functioning, and then with these fully connected to the bionic hand.

Dennis Aabo and scientists Dennis Aabo spent a month doing laboratory tests of the bionic hand

He said: "The biggest difference was when I grabbed something I could feel what I was doing without having to look. I could use the hand in the dark.

"It was intuitive to use, and incredible to be able to feel whether objects were soft or hard, square or round."

Hero

The bionic hand is still a prototype, and due to safety restrictions imposed on clinical trials, Mr Aabo required a second operation to remove the sensors.

"He is a hero," said Professor Paolo Rossini, neurologist, University Hospital Agostino Gemelli, Rome.

"He gave a month of his life and had two operations to test this device.

"We are all very grateful to him."

Prof Rossini said a lot of pre-training was done involving surgery on pigs, and with human cadavers, to ensure they knew exactly how to attach electrodes to the tiny peripheral nerves in the upper arm.

Another member of the team, Dr Stanisa Raspopovic said: "It was a very exciting moment when after endless hours of testing....Dennis turned to us and said with disbelief, 'This is magic! I can feel the closing of my missing hand!'"

Those working in the field in the UK were also enthusiastic.

"This is very interesting work, taking research in upper limb prosthetics into the next stage by adding sensory feedback, said Dr Alastair Ritchie, Lecturer in Biomaterials and Bioengineering, University of Nottingham.

"This technology would enable the user to know how firmly they are gripping an object, which is vital for handling fragile objects - imagine picking up an egg without any feeling in your fingers."

prosthetic hand Although a milestone in prosthetics, the bionic hand of movies remains the stuff of science fiction

The international team is now working on how to miniaturise the technology so that it could be used in the home.

"We must get rid of the external cables and make them fully implantable" said Prof Thomas Stieglitz, University of Frieburg, Germany, whose laboratory created the ultra-thin implantable electrodes.

Recently, scientists in Cleveland, Ohio released a video of a patient using the fingers of a prosthetic hand to pull the stalks from cherries while blindfolded. But the research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

There is no precise timetable, but scientists think it could be a decade before a sensory feedback bionic hand is commercially available.

And they believe it may pave the way for more realistic prosthetic devices in the future which can detect texture and temperature.

'Bring it on'

But it will undoubtedly be very expensive, well beyond the means of most patients. And artificial hands still lack the precision and dexterity of the real thing.

The super-functioning bionic hand of science fiction films remains the stuff of fiction.

Nonetheless, Dennis Aabo, who now has his old prosthesis back, is ready to swap it for the bionic hand in any future trial.

"If they offer it to me, I will say bring it on, I'm ready."

 
Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 135.

    What a marvellous piece of technology.

  • Comment number 134.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 133.

    132. Mike - Its just another way of looking at things. Have you never wondered why sometimes just in the nick of time a person comes up with a new way of doing things.

    Evolution - survival of the fittest - those you can survive the environment get to breed and have offspring.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 132.

    131.
    USAperson

    Nope, you just made that up. There is no evidence from external sources. None whatsoever. You have made this up. The bible itself provides zero evidence - it's all made up. Deep down you know this.

    You've made no valid points at all other than maybe putting yourself forward as an example of why evolution must be false.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 131.

    122. Mike
    Wouldn't an all powerful god, regenerate the limbs? Unless: He's imaginary....

    Freedom of will. God may only interfere on a local level if he really does not like what is going on - other than that god has a universe to run. Finesse would be to suddenly give a person inspiration needed to make a change. Think kerosene lamps replacing whale oil, God does like whales you know.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 130.

    fair points, but either way,we should be asking the church for guidance in this. that would be the fair thing to do before scientiests do as they please.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 129.

    I can't wait for the iHand to come out, you'll have people lining up to have their hand chopped off!

  • Comment number 128.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 127.

    123. songokugolf
    aren't we in danger of insulting our creators will?... shouldn't we leave fate to decide our lives and live in accordance to our makers wishes?


    ----

    Dude I'll help you rationalise it.

    It was the "creator's" will for this guy to be able to feel. He had a working hand before his accident.

    So it's all good... just relax.

    Science is just giving the "creator" a helping hand :)

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 126.

    123.
    songokugolf

    And surely if you were following your scriptures, you shouldn't have any luxury items such as a PC with internet connection - you'd better sell them and follow the plan.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 125.

    sonoukgolf

    Yeah, it's some kind of witchcraft - I hear people are now even talking to each other EVEN THOUGH they are hundreds of miles apart! God didn't want that!!

    I even saw a horseless carriage the other day...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 124.

    23.
    songokugolf


    "aren't we in danger of insulting our creators will?... shouldn't we leave fate to decide our lives and live in accordance to our makers wishes?"

    Your maker's wishes violate my morality - the condoning of slavery, infanticide, senseless murder, oppression of women, homophobia etc etc. Asking for guidance from your scriptures is ridiculous.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 123.

    aren't we in danger of insulting our creators will?... shouldn't we leave fate to decide our lives and live in accordance to our makers wishes?

    I want to know the churchs opinion on this is and see whether scripture can give us guidance to the morality of this. Seems immoral to me.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 122.

    120.
    USAperson

    "One could look at it as Gods will that Humans go down this path rather than relying on donated human parts as God is tired of prayers for "parts that the prayer needs which require someone else to die". Artificial parts ends the moral and ethical questions of transplants."

    Wouldn't an all powerful god, regenerate the limbs? Unless: He's imaginary....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 121.

    Two of these hands, two legs & a bit of armour over the still working human head & chest and you've pretty much got a cyberman!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 120.

    113. Mike
    and
    92.
    Mega Awesume Pooster

    One could look at it as Gods will that Humans go down this path rather than relying on donated human parts as God is tired of prayers for "parts that the prayer needs which require someone else to die". Artificial parts ends the moral and ethical questions of transplants.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 119.

    #106 Crystal Palace:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientist
    "A scientist, in a broad sense, is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method" "Scientists are also distinct from engineers, those who design, build and maintain devices for particular situations."

    Neither are the same job

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 118.

    The hand looks unwieldy because they were testing feedback from the hand to existing remaining nerve paths in the body.

    This is a group project bringing engineers, doctors, medical scientists together to actually do something some a group consumers are requesting - why can't I get feedback from these artificial limbs?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 117.

    Dear Mr. Mega A. Pooster,

    Excellent name choice for yourself, Pooster (#92). You are truly one who speaks fearlessly from a scatological perspective.

    Thank you for your contribution to what would otherwise be an all too serious grown-up discussion.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 116.

    #75 Adam Jensen
    So don't use it then..

 

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