Years of returning war wounded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans have focused the medical industry on developing prosthetic technology that more closely resembles a real limb or extremity. For example, researchers at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University have developed a new kind of interface that can convey a sense of touch from 20 spots on a prosthetic hand. It does this by directly stimulating nerve bundles—known as peripheral nerves in the arms of patients. Two people have so far been fitted with the interface. What’s more, the implants continue to work after 18 months, a noteworthy milestone given that electrical interfaces to nerve tissue can gradually degrade in performance. This is all great news for disabled veterans and disabled patients as a whole.
In the video below, we see the sensory feedback supplied from the prosthetic hand that results in the patient not crushing the cherry as he removes the stem.
DARPA is also actively participating in improving prosthetic technology. The research organization has awarded a contract to a New Hampshire-based corporation, DEKA Innovative Solutions Corp., on Thursday for sensorized prosthetic limbs, as part of the Hand Proprioception & Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX ) program. The $7 million contract also covers the manufacture of prosthetic limbs under the Revolutionizing Prosthetics Follow-On Studies (RPFS ) program. The prosthetics will be used as part of a year-long trial to generate data necessary for gaining market approval and subsequently access to a larger patient pool.