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Bionic Hand Allows Amputees to Regain Sense of Touch

Update Date: Feb 19, 2013 12:58 PM EST
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People who have lost limbs have long had the ability to use prosthetic ones. However, up to half of people with prosthetic limbs do not use them, citing problems like appearance. The largest problem, however, remains that prosthetic limbs do not allow the user to actually touch or feel things. Now, a new technology may put an end to the lack of functionality in prosthetic limbs. The new technology will allow amputees a chance to touch again.

According to the Telegraph, the hand, developed by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, is connected to the user's brain via the nerves in his or her arm. That means that the user can control the device using his or her brain. The hand allows the user to feel senses from all five fingers, the palm and the wrist, meaning that it feels extremely lifelike.

According to RT, an earlier version of the model had been given to 26-year-old Pierpaolo Petruzziello in 2009. He was able to wriggle the fingers of the bionic hand, make a fist, hold objects and even feel the sensation of a needle poking his palm.

However, that earlier model only allowed Petruzziello to feel two sensations at a time. It was also attached via electrodes hooked up to the person, so they were not directly connected. In addition, the model can only be connected for a month.

Researchers are working on improving the model so that electrodes sit under the skin, not on top of it. That would allow the hand to be attached to the user permanently.

The technology will be demonstrated at the conference for the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. So far, the hand is being used by an anonymous patient in Rome, who lost his forearm, reports RedOrbit. The Lausanne team expects to have a fully working model in two years.

The breakthrough is not the only one made recently regarding prosthetics. A study published in the journal Nature Communications detailed the creation of a brain prosthetic that also gave the sense of touch. The goal would be to allow quadriplegics to move their limbs again and to feel things like texture of objects in their hand or the earth under the feet.

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