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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Amputees may soon have the ability to experience touch.
New technology developed at FIU was just approved by the FDA for human trials.
The sensation of touching hair versus plastic or rubber, is something many of us take for granted. Without even looking, we can tell if a bottle of water is empty or full. But arm and hand amputees cannot. With prosthetics currently available, they can grab but not feel, and that could lead to excessive force by the prosthetic, which could crush objects.
FIU is looking to change that with a neural-enabled prosthetic hand system.
“They’re electrodes, which are fine wires that are as thin as a human hair, that are sewn inside the nerve,” explains Dr. Ranu Jung, Interim Dean of FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing.
After ten years of research and development with other professionals and FIU graduate students, the device was recently approved by the FDA for in-human testing.
Dr. Jung explains that a magnet connects the implant to sensors inside the prosthetic that communicate the size and fragility of objects.
“Think about holding an egg,” says Dr. Jung. “If you don’t have any sensation, could you just pick up an egg? You would crush it. Think about a cookie. Same thing for a grape.”
The sensation passed from the sensors to the implant would help the amputee control the prosthetic and once again feel, which makes Dr. Jung beam with excitement.
“You would feel things! Think about us when we touch something, or you touch somebody’s face,” says Dr. Jung.
Just how sensitive the sensors are remain to be seen through the trial. If the first in-human trial in amputees goes well, clinical trials would follow. Eventually, Dr. Jung would seek approval to make the technology commercially available.