Bionic hand restores man's sense of touch after nine years
An amputee has been able to experience the sensation of touch again by using the first prosthetic hand that allows the wearer to feel what it touches.
The bionic hand, which is able to detect the shape and solidity of objects, uses implants connected to nerves in Dennis Aabo Sorensen's upper arm to transmit electrical signals from sensors attached to the fingers to his brain.
While wearing the artificial hand, Mr Sorensen (36), a father of three from Denmark, was able to distinguish between hard, soft, round and square objects – while blindfolded and wearing earplugs – during a four-week trial.
It is believed that the technology could be a step towards creating prostheses that allow the wearers to sense textures and temperature.
The team behind the artificial limb said it would mean amputees could hold objects without having to watch their hands to detect the tightness of their grip.
Mr Sorensen lost his left hand nine years ago after an accident with a firework.
"It was quite amazing because suddenly I could feel something I had not been feeling for nine years," he said.
"The sensory feedback was incredible. You can feel round things and hard things and soft things. Suddenly when I was doing the movements I could feel actually what I was doing, instead of looking at what I was doing."
Scientists have already developed prosthetic hands and arms that can be controlled using thoughts by connecting electrodes to the remaining nerves in a patient's shoulder.
It is hoped that adding tactile functions to such artificial limbs could allow amputees to live completely unimpeded lives. Scientists said the development of a fully functional bionic hand is still some years away.
The hand was developed by Dr Silvestro Micera and a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, along with the The Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. Dr Micera said: "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."