Restoring Feel

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Date: March 12, 2017

LEDE: The F-D-A has cleared the first human trials of an investigational device that could give real sensation to artificial hands.

Randy Atkins: Picking up delicate objects with a prosthetic hand requires the person to watch closely, since they can’t sense touch or feel whether their hand is open or closed. But a team led by Ranu Jung, of Florida International University, is now embedding artificial hands with sensors that send wireless signals to a nerve stimulator surgically implanted in the amputee’s real arm. It's connected to…

Ranu Jung: …very fine wires, which are thinner than a human hair, and we sew them inside the nerve.

Randy Atkins: When those nerve fibers are activated, information gets communicated to the brain and the person perceives sensation.

Ranu Jung: Even though you are not going to capture every single exact pattern that the biological system has, if we capture some of the information then the brain will be able to interpret that information.

Randy Atkins: Patients will soon be fitted with the artificial hands that feel, to test how they work in the real world. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.