Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology implanted an osseo-neuromuscular implant in a Swedish patient
A team of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology developed an osseo-neuromuscular implant to control a dexterous hand prosthesis. A female Swedish patient with hand amputation was the first recipient of the implant through a surgery. The titanium implants were placed in the two forearm bones (radius and ulnar). The team extended electrodes to nerves and muscle from the bones to extract signals to control a robotic hand and to offer tactile sensations. According to the researchers, the implant offers the first clinically viable, dexterous, and sentient prosthetic hand usable in real life. The research is a part of the European project DeTOP.
The new implant technology was developed by a team of researchers lead by Dr. Max Ortiz Catalan at Integrum AB and Chalmers University of Technology. Integrum AB and Chalmers University of Technology have previously demonstrated that control of a sentient prosthesis in daily life can be achieved in above-elbow amputees with the help of similar technology. However, this was challenging in below-elbow amputees where there are two smaller bones rather than a single larger one as in the upper arm. This in turn posed several challenges on the development of the implant system. However, such challenges also offer an opportunity to achieve a more dexterous control of an artificial replacement as many more muscles are available to extract neural commands in below-elbow amputations.
Bones tend to weaken if they are not used—a common trend after amputation. The team stated that the patient is following a rehabilitation program in order to recover the strength in her forearm bones. This in turn may allow her to fully load the prosthetic hand. The patient is also relearning how to control her missing hand using virtual reality. The team stated that she will be using a prosthetic hand in a few weeks with increasing function and sensations in her daily life. The team has planned implants with this new generation of prosthetic hands in the upcoming months for two more patients in Italy and Sweden.
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