A group of scientists at the University of Utah with the collaboration of several other institutions have reportedly developed a technology that will let the patients have a sense of feeling through their prosthetic arms. The scientist has named this device as ‘LUKE Arm’ which is a reference to the prosthetic of Luke Skywalker from a Star Wars film. The findings from this project were published on Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics.
The scientists at the university have developed Utah Slanted Electrode Array (USEA). Gregory Clark, a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist at the Utah University, told Gizmodo that USEA enables the prosthetic arm to connect with the patient’s sensory and motor nerves present in their amputated arm. The patient’s thought which channel through these nerves enable them to use the device.
The scientists explained that to make the device operational, several electrodes are surgically rooted next to the nerve fibers. These electrodes can then communicate with smaller groups of nerve fibers to do a particular job in a precise manner. There is a channel established for communication between the prosthetic hand and the nervous system of the patient.
Clark explained that “Metaphorically, having electrodes inside the nerve rather than outside is like having intimate and different conversations with small sets of selected people that you’re sitting close to, rather than shouting from outside a stadium so that everyone inside hears much the same message, and hearing only a garbled roar of the crowd in return.”
Keven Walgamott, who lost his left hand in an accident in 2002, was the volunteer for this project. Walgamott could feel the difference of some of the things that he touched like their size, texture, etc., without looking at them. He was able to perform some delicate tasks like picking eggs and grapes or filling a pillow into a pillow case. The team of researchers are currently working on preparing portable and wireless forms of the arms that can be used outside of lab conditions safely.