Since our century’s legacy will most likely be technological progress, it’s not at all strange that we develop as many resources as possible to developing new and helpful technologies. And few things are as relevant to helping mankind prosper as medical research. And we have gotten some pretty impressive achievements lately.
After a team of scientists have created a fully 3D printed arm capable of a full range of motions, another made artificially grown organs, and many others are working on their own impressive medicinal advances, a Swiss team of researchers, in a worldwide premiere, created a bionic fingertip to help an amputee feel texture once more.
Silvestro Micera and his team from the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology and Calogero Oddo and his team from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna are the ones behind the new invention. Their new bionic fingertip allowed an amputee for the first time to feel texture.
Dennis Aabo Sorensen is the team’s test subject, as he agreed to participate in the project. According to him, the stimulation of the artificial nerves felt almost like his other hand. He still feels like he’s missing the hand, always clenched in a fist, so it was even weirder to feel his phantom finger touch something.
Behind the fingertip
Sorensen is the first person in the world to be able to feel texture again with the use of a bionic finger that was connected to electrodes surgically implanted above his stump. This happened as the nerves in his arm were connected to an artificial fingertip that was equipped with sensors.
He didn’t have control over the finger, as a machine had control over it, moving it over different pieces of plastic of different textures and patterns. Moving across the plastic, the sensors in the fingers generated electric signals that were translated via a series of spikes into the language of nervous system, and then sent to the nerves. It allowed him a 96% accuracy in determining the type of texture.
This wasn’t the first experiment of this kind performed on Sorensen, as the team previously used him to test a prosthetic hand that allowed him to discern softness and shape. And even though it worked perfectly, this newest bionic finger is far more advanced technology.
Even better the procedure doesn’t even require surgery, with the team testing it on non-amputees as well. This worked by temporarily attaching fine needles through the skin to the arm’s median nerve. It allowed non-amputees a 77% rate of distinguishing between textures.
Image source: Wikimedia