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'Nerve interface' tech to aid amputees

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'Dr Robert Oneal, a collegiate professor of plastic surgery at the University of Michigan’s Medical School in the US and study co-author, said: “This is the biggest advance in motor control for people with amputations in many years.' Photo: Evan Dougherty/University of Michigan Engineering via Reuters

'Dr Robert Oneal, a collegiate professor of plastic surgery at the University of Michigan’s Medical School in the US and study co-author, said: “This is the biggest advance in motor control for people with amputations in many years.' Photo: Evan Dougherty/University of Michigan Engineering via Reuters

via REUTERS

'Dr Robert Oneal, a collegiate professor of plastic surgery at the University of Michigan’s Medical School in the US and study co-author, said: “This is the biggest advance in motor control for people with amputations in many years.' Photo: Evan Dougherty/University of Michigan Engineering via Reuters

A new piece of technology that allows amputees to move individual fingers in their prosthetic limbs by using their mind has been developed by scientists.

The so-called "nerve interface" technology uses muscle grafts, electrodes and machine learning algorithms to amplify the faint nerve signals coming from the amputee's residual limb so the bionic hand can receive these signals in real time.

The US researchers said their technology, which can last for almost a year without adjustments, allows amputees to have more precision control of their prosthetic hands.

Dr Robert Oneal, a collegiate professor of plastic surgery at the University of Michigan's Medical School in the US and study co-author, said: "This is the biggest advance in motor control for people with amputations in many years. We have developed a technique to provide individual finger control of prosthetic devices using the nerves in a patient's residual limb."

Four people were involved in the study published in the journal 'Science Translational Medicine'. They used the Mobius Bionics LUKE arm developed in the US.

As the peripheral nerve signals in an amputated limb are too faint to be picked up by the electrodes, the researchers found a way to amplify these signals wrapping the nerves in tiny muscle grafts.

The grafts then regenerated and developed nerves and blood vessels over three months, which prevented the growth of nerve masses that lead to phantom limb pain.

Electrodes implanted in the muscle grafts were able to record the peripheral nerve signals and pass them on to a prosthetic hand in real time.

Irish Independent