Bionic hand allows amputee to 'feel'

A bionic hand has been fitted to a 36-year-old amputee in Denmark, giving him the ability 'feel' for the first time in ten years.

The hand, believed to be the first of its kind, was wired to nerves in the patient's upper arm. During an operation in Rome, four electrodes were implanted onto the nerves and connected to the artificial sensors in the fingers of the prosthetic hand, allowing touch and pressure feedback to be sent direct to the brain. Dennis Aabo Sørensen lost the ability to use his left hand nearly nine years ago after a firework accident. In laboratory tests, he was able to tell the shape and stiffness of objects he picked up, even when blindfolded. The researchers believe the technology could completely restore function to people who have lost the use of their arms, allowing them to sense textures and even temperature. "This is the first time in neuroprosthetics that sensory feedback has been restored and used by an amputee in real-time to control an artificial limb," said Silvestro Micera, a researcher at the EPFL Centre for Neuroprosthetics and SSSA in Italy. The prosthesis works using electronic sensors in the hand which detect tension in artificial tendons that control the movement of the fingers. The information is then turned into an electrical current and computer algorithms in the hand send an impulse to sensory nerves in the upper arm. The next step for the researchers is to miniaturise the technology so that it can be used in the home.