Revolutionary bionic hand restores sense of touch to amputees

US scientists have developed a bionic hand that can restore the sense of touch to patients who have lost limbs.

A report in Science Translational Medicine explained that sensors on the artificial hand send signals directly to the patient's nerves, allowing them to perform more delicate movements.

Read more: Avatars and exoskeletons to feature in world's first Bionic Olympics in 2016

Igor Spetic, one of the early adopters of the technology, previously used a standard bionic replacement, meaning he had to judge by eye if he was squeezing too hard.

Following research by a team at Case Western Reserve University, "cuffs" can now been added around the patient's remaining nerves so they can receive signals from the bionic limb. Various sensations are then mapped to 19 different positions on the hand giving the patient back a sense of touch.

Mr Spetic has been using the bionic hand for two-and-a-half years and can now tell he is holding different material such as Velcro or sandpaper, even whilst blindfolded.

In an interview with the BBC, lead researcher Professor Dustin Tyler said that the wearers of the artificial limb were now capable of performing delicate tasks.

"We believe within five to 10 years we will have a system completely implanted so we would see a person in the morning, they would have the procedure to put electrodes on each nerve and a device for their pocket, so that when they turn it on they can feel their hands."

In similar news, scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden are looking at long-term bionic solutions with the development of the first bone-anchored robotic arm.

Known as "osseointegration," the technique involves connecting the bionic arm directly to the bone, nerves and muscles in the patients' remaining tissue.

Read more: MIT develops seven fingered robot hand

One of the researchers, Dr Max Ortiz Catalan said that the project aims to "create a long-term stable fusion between man and machine."

Image Credit: Science Translational Medicine