Tuesday, August 2, 2022
HomeHealthResearchers are growing prosthetics which have a way of contact : NPR

Researchers are growing prosthetics which have a way of contact : NPR

A crew on the College of Pittsburgh is working to attach prosthetic legs and arms with the nervous system to present sufferers a way of contact.


Scientists need to make synthetic limbs really feel actual. Scientists are growing bionic legs and arms that present a way of contact. NPR’s Jon Hamilton reviews on work by researchers on the College of Pittsburgh.

JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: The group consists of greater than 80 folks from 10 completely different labs. Lee Fisher is a bioengineer who runs a kind of labs. He says their inspiration comes from Star Wars.

LEE FISHER: When Luke Skywalker has that amputation, they offer him this new hand, and it – you possibly can’t inform that it isn’t his personal hand.

HAMILTON: One motive – Luke’s prosthetic hand feels stress and ache identical to his pure one did. Fisher says we depend on a way of contact for even easy duties, like holding a cup of espresso. So the Pittsburgh scientists are discovering methods to acquire tactile info from synthetic limbs and transmit it to the person’s personal nervous system. Fisher’s lab, for instance, is utilizing a tool implanted in an individual’s backbone.

FISHER: It mainly appears to be like like – virtually like a spaghetti noodle. They are often inserted by a needle.

HAMILTON: The machine is designed to stimulate the nerves of individuals with power ache, however Fisher’s lab is utilizing it to relay info from sensors on a prosthetic hand or foot. He says the trick is to stimulate the identical nerve fibers that had been as soon as linked to the individual’s personal limb.

FISHER: The very first thing we do is simply try to perceive, what does the stimulation really feel like? So can we generate a sensation that feels prefer it’s coming from their lacking hand or from their lacking foot? Can we alter how intense it feels?

HAMILTON: A examine of 4 folks suggests the reply is sure. Pat Bayne, whose proper arm was amputated to cease an an infection, described what the stimulation felt like in a video made by the college.


PAT BAYNE: I do know there isn’t any hand there, however I can really feel it. They’ll make the palm of my hand really feel prefer it’s the palm of my hand.

HAMILTON: Synthetic legs and ft additionally work higher with a way of contact. Fisher says that is as a result of we depend on fixed suggestions from our ft simply to remain upright.

FISHER: We’re mainly like an the wrong way up pendulum that it’s important to maintain shifting round to take care of that stability, and that sensory suggestions out of your ft is actually what permits you to try this.

HAMILTON: Fisher says an experiment that added suggestions from a prosthetic foot appeared to assist a minimum of one amputee.

FISHER: We noticed what appears to be like like enhancements in her stability management throughout standing, her stability whereas she’s strolling and in addition perhaps some enhancements in her confidence as properly – so how snug she feels.

HAMILTON: A way of contact may even assist folks whose limbs are paralyzed. For a number of years, the Pittsburgh group has been instructing paralyzed folks to manage a robotic arm utilizing simply their ideas.


HAMILTON: Jen Collinger, a rehabilitation scientist, says now they need to add a way of contact to robotic arms, like this one named Kuka.

JEN COLLINGER: Kuka is an industrial robotic. We chosen it as a result of it is quick, and it additionally could be pretty versatile.

HAMILTON: In principle, Collinger says, robots might assist a paralyzed individual regain some independence.

COLLINGER: With the ability to feed your self – proper? – with the ability to make a meal, to have the ability to dress, to sport, to do something, actually, that you just need to do.

HAMILTON: However duties like which can be tough when an individual has to rely solely on their eyes to know what a prosthetic arm is doing. Robert Gaunt, a biomedical engineer, says a way of contact makes it a lot simpler.

ROBERT GAUNT: It cuts in half the time that it takes anyone to choose up objects and transfer them round. And a variety of these trials really get quick sufficient to be thought of what we’d name form of able-bodied efficiency.

HAMILTON: Up to now, scientists can solely present a really primary sense of contact. Gaunt says it is ok to know when a foot has weight on it or a hand has encountered one thing.

GAUNT: Our means to discriminate various kinds of objects, textures, surfaces – that is a tough downside.

HAMILTON: Onerous, he says, however not out of attain.

Jon Hamilton, NPR Information.

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