A bionic hand named after Luke Skywalker could help amputees feel again

A bionic hand named after Luke Skywalker could help amputees feel again


To lose a hand is to lose part of yourself, Gregory Clark, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Utah told USA TODAY. And while prosthetic hands have been in use for thousands of years, there is room for improvement. 
Researchers at the University of Utah, with the help of other organizations including Blackrock Microsystems and DEKA, have been on a mission to do just that. They have developed a prosthetic system that will allow patients to regain their sense of touch.
"Traditional prosthetic hands lack sensory feedback, which makes them clumsy to control and makes them feel unnatural," said Clark.
As a result, the team added sensory feedback to an advanced bionic arm called the LUKE arm. It's named for the robotic arm Luke Skywalker receives in "The Empire Strikes Back."
They used output from arm sensors to control the stimulation of sensory nerve fibers which convey information to the brain and create the sensation of touch. To recreate that sensation, electrodes were connected to the inside of nerves.
"The participants can feel over one hundred different locations and types of sensation coming from their missing hand," said Clark.
The sensations include different types of touch, such as pressure, flutter or vibration, temperature, and pain. According to Clark, users can also feel the location and contraction of their muscles, even though the muscles aren't actually there.
"That’s because we can send electrical signals up the sensory fibers (biological wires) from the muscles, so the brain interprets them as real," he said.
And just as the brain is able to interpret the electrical signals, the motor signals from the brain register with the LUKE as well.


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