Researchers say that a new bionic hand that restores feeling to patients is set to trial this year.
Announced this week (.pdf), a team at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne led by Dr. Silvestro Micera plan to transplant and trial a new prosthetic hand. The prosthetic, which is connected to the nervous system through wires and electrodes that are implanted into nerves which transmit information to and from an organic hand, has been designed to allow the wearer to once more "feel" in a normal fashion.
The test subject recipient of the prosthetic is a 26-year old called Pierpaolo Petruzziello, according to Wired. In tests with an earlier prototype, Petruzziello noticed when needles were pricked into the prosthetic's skin sensors. More impressively, within days, the patient was able to "will" the hand to move where he wanted it the majority of the time.
The connection between prosthetic and nervous system is meant to work in two ways; to allow Petruzziello to "feel" contact, and also to be able to relay sensory signals from his brain to the hand substitute. Dr Micera told The Guardian:
"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 plan is to see whether the patient will be able to adapt to the latest prototype over the course of a month, and if it goes well, then there could be fully working models available for testing within the next two years.
Image credit: Lifehand