People who have lost an arm may soon be able to have an artificial skin on their prosthetic limbs, with fully working nerve endings. Patients would be able to feel everything with their artificial arm.
One of the greatest challenges that people with prosthetic limb deal with is not being able to touch or feel. Giving this people the ability to feel once again, would be the greatest gift they could get. But, that leaves engineers with a lot to think about and create.
Prosthetic limbs and artificial skin
The human body is one very complex computer. The sophistication of the human nerve endings is very high. They are in a way, low power circuits that transform the physical pressure into a digital signal and transmit it to the human brain. When the brain receives the signals, it gets a sense of touch.
This is such a complex system, that is really hard to believe an artificial limb and skin would be able to achieve that. Benjamin CK is an electrical engineer at the Stanford University. He and his team are making a great progress.
The Digital Tactile System is their invention that has given them the right direction for the future. This system will one day enable people with prosthetic limbs to also have an artificial skin that can sense touch.
Artificial limbs and digital tactile system:
The sensors on the artificial skin are sensitive to the same intensity as the human skin is. Even a grain of salt can be felt with the artificial skin.
The co-engineer on the project, Zhenan Bao and his team, have already created a pressure sensor that can use artificial skin due to his high flexibility. The only thing left for the prosthetic limb to work perfectly is to add pressure sensors that can transmit the signals to the brain.
Prosthetic limb test results:
The Journal Science published the test results for the experiment of Bao and the other engineers. The engineers connected the Ditack with the brain of the mice and the results were amazing.
The electrical pulse that was created when the prosthetic limb along with the skin was moving and touching lit up the LED in the brain tissue. The neurons become stimulated and react to the lights. This technique hasn’t been used on humans. It is called optogenetics. There is a need for more research and development, but the prosthetic limb and artificial skin give a great promise for disabled people.
feature image credit: thetimes