Austrian men replace paralyzed hands with nimble robotic ones

The three men can now do things like pouring water thanks to new robotic hands

A trio of Austrian men have had their paralyzed hands amputated and replaced with nerve-controlled robotic prostheses, according to a new study in The Lancet.  The men are the first to undergo the "bionic reconstruction" surgical technique, which resulted in restored function that helps the men in daily living activities such as being able to pour water from a jug.

A trio of Austrian men have had their paralyzed hands amputated and replaced with nerve-controlled robotic prostheses, according to a new study in The Lancet. The men are the first to undergo the "bionic reconstruction" surgical technique, which resulted in restored function that helps the men in daily living activities such as being able to ...

A trio of Austrian men have had their paralyzed hands amputated and replaced with nerve-controlled robotic prostheses, according to a new study.

The men are the first to undergo the "bionic reconstruction" surgical technique, which resulted in restored function that helps the men in daily living activities such as being able to pour water from a jug, the study in The Lancet medical journal said.

Robotic hands activated by nerve impulses or app signals have been under development for years, but the study is the first to combine the surgical method with the technology. It paves the way for greater use of advanced prostheses for people with limb problems.

The three patients suffered paralyzing injuries related to nerves in the neck area. They chose to be fitted with robotic prostheses that have sensors that can respond to electrical impulses in muscles.

The surgeries and rehabilitation were carried out under Oskar Aszmann from the Medical University of Vienna, who is the lead author of the study, along with engineers from University Medical Center Goettingen. They created neural inputs for hands developed by German prosthetics maker Ottobock including the Michelangelo Hand, which can be adjusted via Bluetooth-linked PC software.

"The scientific advance here was that we were able to create and extract new neural signals via nerve transfers amplified by muscle transplantation," Aszmann said in a release. "These signals were then decoded and translated into solid mechatronic hand function."

The patients underwent cognitive training and practiced with the robot hands for an average of nine months before surgery in order to develop useful nerve signals to control the prostheses.

In a series of videos for the study, the patients can be seen trying to manipulate various objects first with a paralyzed hand, then with the prosthesis attached via a splint-like device while training before surgery, and finally with the prosthesis alone after surgery. The videos show significant improvement in dexterity and speed.

Following the surgery, for the first time since their accidents the three men were able to do things like pick up a ball, use a key, cut food with a knife and use two hands to undo buttons. Mental health improved in two patients and remained the same in the third, according to the study.

The procedure could be successfully carried out at any center with the same surgical and technical resources, the authors concluded.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Ottobockrobotics

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?