New Incredible Biomedical Prosthetics Allow Users Sense Of Touch And Pain

Posted: Jun 25 2018, 9:57am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 25 2018, 9:59am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
New Incredible Biomedical Prosthetics Allow Users Sense of Touch And Pain
Image Credit: Larry Canner / Homewood Photography

Scientists Create Artificial Skin That Can Feel Pain.

Phantom limb is a sensory illusion that is felt by people who have lost some part of their body due to accident or some kind of disease; they often feel that their organ is still functional and present.

Now engineers have turned this sensory illusion into reality; a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University has succeeded in development of an electronic skin that operates in some ways like an ordinary skin. The sense abilities of this electronic skin called E-Dermis are very basic, but it is still a very good start in the right direction.

The E-Dermis forms the upper layer of a prosthetic organ and pass sense signals to the person who is wearing it.

"After many years, I felt my hand, as if a hollow shell got filled with life again," says the amputee who served as the team's principal volunteer. (The research protocol used in the study does not allow identification of the amputee volunteers.)

The E-dermis is made of rubber and other fabrics with different sensors embedded inside; these sensors can feel the pressure and imitate like nerve endings. The electronic skin then processes these signals, and relay back the sense of touch and pain to the person’s peripheral nerves.

"We've made a sensor that goes over the fingertips of a prosthetic hand and acts like your own skin would," says Luke Osborn, a graduate student in biomedical engineering. "It's inspired by what is happening in human biology, with receptors for both touch and pain.

"This is interesting and new," Osborn adds, "because now we can have a prosthetic hand that is already on the market and fit it with an e-dermis that can tell the wearer, whether he or she is picking up something that is round or whether it has sharp points."

Human skin is very complex and contains a vast network of receptors that send sensory signals to the brain; the team at John Hopkins University created a neuromorphic model very similar to these networks. The electronic sense signals received by the electronic skin are transferred to the person by a noninvasive process known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS.

With this electronic skin, a person can also differentiate between round and edgy objects, at present, the electronic skin cannot feel heat or differentiate between different temperatures.

"Pain is, of course, unpleasant, but it's also an essential, protective sense of touch that is lacking in the prostheses that are currently available to amputees," another team member added. "Advances in prosthesis designs and control mechanisms can aid an amputee's ability to regain lost function, but they often lack meaningful, tactile feedback or perception."

The team members also mentioned that this new technology can be very useful in designing future generation of space suits.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Manfred "Luigi" Lugmayr () is the founding Chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 25 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets, tech and online shopping. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology news and tech and toy shopping hub.
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