According tomedia reports, a number of research teams have developed “idea control” of the bionic hand, can respond to the user’s residual arm nerve impulses. By amplifying these pulses, the new system can make this bionic hand easier to use than ever before. The main problem with the use of peripheral residual nerves is that they carry relatively weak electrical signals, making implanted electrodes of the prosthesis difficult to read. As a result, users must learn very specific thinking patterns for different hand functions, which are often very basic.
In addition, after surgically connecting electrodes to the nerves, scar tissue may eventually form at the connection – which eventually makes the signal more difficult to detect. Nerve impulses originate in the brain, but pulse impulses are stronger, but implanted electrodes are more invasive and potentially risky.
Instead, scientists at the University of Michigan wrapped tiny muscle grafts around the nerve-cut end of the remains of the arms of four amputees. These grafts/nerve endings packages, known as “regenerative peripheral neural interfaces” (RPNi), greatly increase the electrical strength of the nerve signals by converting them into muscle signals, making high-resolution pulses easier to read.
As an added benefit, the graft provides tissue for nerve growth. This prevents the formation of neuromas, which are sometimes painful nerve bundles that form in the injured area.
IN LABORATORY TESTS USING THE COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE MOBIUS BIONICS LUKE PROSTHESIS, RPNI-ENABLED AMPUTEES WERE ABLE TO PERFORM TASKS IMMEDIATELY WITHOUT PRIOR TRAINING – INSTEAD, THEY WERE JUST THINKING ABOUT WHAT THEY WANTED THEIR ARMS TO DO. Among other things, they can grab and pick up obstacles, lift spherical objects and play games similar to stone scissors. They can even control individual fingers.
Cindy Chestek, an associate professor who led the study with Professor Paul Cederna, said: “This will be a viable approach, but we will not stop trying until we fully restore the robust hand movement.” That’s the dream of neuroremediation. “Researchers are currently conducting clinical trials and are looking for volunteers.
The study was described in a recent paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.