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Man Regains Ability to Feel from a Bionic Hand [VIDEO]

Update Date: Feb 06, 2014 10:27 AM EST
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After nearly one decade, a Danish man has regained the ability to feel with the help of a bionic hand. Dennis Aabo lost his left hand due to a firework accident nine years ago. He underwent surgery in Italy to get the bionic hand, which connects to the nerves of his upper arm and gives him the ability to touch.

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

The bionic hand was created with the help of an international team of robotics experts from Italy, Switzerland and Germany. In order to give the robotic hand feeling, the team had to develop the electronics and software that could be connected to the upper arm. After creating the hand, the team added sensors that would be able to identify and measure any information about touch. The team then used computer algorithms to help change the stimuli that the hand touches into sensory nerves that the human brain could interpret.

During Aabo's surgery, he had four electrodes implanted on the nerves in his upper arm. These electrodes were connected to the artificial sensors located in the bionic hand's fingertips. After the surgery, Aabo's new hand was tested. While blindfolded, he was asked to describe the shape and stiffness of the objects he touched and lifted.

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

Despite the huge advances in technology, the experts are already thinking of ways to improve the technology so that more people without limbs could potentially get their sense of touch back. The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.

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