Dennis Aabo Sorensen using the Lifehand 2 (via EPFL)
Researchers in the United Kingdom recently successfully conducted a clinical study with a prosthetic hand that allowed one amputee from Denmark to have a sense of touch for the first time in nine years.
Dennis Aabo Sorensen lost his left hand nine years ago during a fireworks accident. The Danish man, however, recently became the first amputee in the world to be able to experience the sensation of touch with a prosthetic apparatus.
The device, called the Lifehand 2, is a prosthetic hand with four sensor extensions that attach to the nerves in the upper arm of a patient. The attachments send electronic signals through the nerves, to the brain, allowing the brain to give the patient the sensation of touch, including the size, shape and texture of an object. Soft objects give the user a slight tingling sensation and the harder the user grips the object, the stronger the sensation becomes.
Sorensen underwent two operations to have the sensors installed into his upper arm. Approximately one month following the procedures he conducted the clinical study.
During the study, Sorensen was blindfolded and asked to wear headphones while trying to identify the object in the prosthetic hand. Sorensen accurately detected the shape, size and consistency of the objects, being able to identify the difference between an orange and a baseball. He was also able to feel the difference between different textures, including cotton, plastic glasses and wood, using only his sense of touch.
The researchers of the study, including study author and neurologist Dr. Paolo Rossini of the University Hospital Agostino Gemilli, Rome, said the hope is to allow the sensors of the prosthetic to work so well with the brain that patients are able to feel and detect objects with which they have never previously encountered.
Sorensen said he was happy to undergo the study, not only for himself, but for all the amputees in the world that so badly desire to have the sensation of touch again.
The Lifehand 2 will not be on the market for quite some time, but it is one step towards helping amputees lead normal lives.
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