New robotic hand gives patients “feeling sensation”
The department of defense is investing millions of dollars to design and build better prosthetics, with the goal of improving the lives of wounded warriors coming home from battle. New research is showing tremendous promise.
For 13 years after losing his hand in an industrial accident, 45-year old Shawn Findley has been using prosthetics, which give him three basic motions.
“I can open and close and I’ve got a wrist rotator to turn the wrist. This is a limited prosthetic, but it’s very robust,” Findley said.
Last year as a volunteer in a research project, Findley, who is also a preacher, was able to do much more, and because of implanted electrodes, he could actually feel his missing hand.
Findley told Ivanhoe, “To be able to trigger those nerves and get feeling in parts of the hand, that was pretty surreal.”
Jonathan Cheng, MD, FACS, Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery, Director, Nerve Lab, Chief of Pediatric Hand, Peripheral Nerve, and Micro-vascular Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center said, “We have a very, very specific approach, which is to place electrical interfaces inside the residual nerves that are still left behind in the residual limb after someone has an amputation.”
The placement of the electrodes and more than 40 wires allowed researchers to send signals to the nerves to control individual fingers of a robotic hand, feel sensations of touch, movement and even a sense of where the hand is in space.
Dr. Cheng continued, “and so if you can imagine what that might allow you to do, it would be things like playing the piano, or typing on a keyboard.”
Findley was in the study for three months. FDA approval could be two years away. Findley knows he’ll have to wait his turn for a long-term fix.
“I think we’ve got a lot of soldier boys that are coming home; they ought to be first in line,” Findley shared.
A breakthrough that may soon be close enough to touch.
Known now as the one-armed preacher, Shawn Findley served in the army from 1993 to 1999. His son now serves with the United States Marine Corps.
Contributors to this news report include: Don Wall, Field Producer; Mark Montgomery, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
To receive a free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe, sign up at: http://www.ivanhoe.com/ftk