Biomedical engineer Max Ortiz Catalan has created the world’s first prosthesis with a direct connection to the bone, nerves and muscles. The scientist says the device is handled using the mind and allows the user to experience sensations, precise control and free mobility.
Catalan explains that the prosthesis becomes an extension of the body through a process called osseointegration, where it connects to the bone through a titanium implant. The electrodes system connected to the muscles and nerves provide a stable signal that allows the user feel sensations and control the device as if it were a real hand, such as handling fragile objects without breaking.
Sensors like the ones found in retail stores would not disrupt this prosthesis. The bone will also grow around the titanium implant, unlike current implants that use stainless steel.
Sahlgrenska University Hospital and the implant company Integrum AB collaborated with Catalan on the project at the Chalmers Technological University in Gothenburg, Sweden. A patient with an amputated arm above the elbow named Magnus is the first person to wear it.
The procedure was performed in 2013. Since then, Magnus has resumed his normal lifestyle activities, returned to his job as a heavy machinery operator and he can even hold an egg without cracking it.
Initially, the procedure requires implanting a titanium piece into the bone and installing a control system that connects the electrodes to the muscles. Next, the doctors place the removable prosthesis, which can be taken off for the patient’s convenience.
Catalan asserts that this technology of employing osseointegration will stop problems normally experienced from putting on a regular prosthesis such as inflammation, discomfort and chafing. The team hopes that this new technology would become accessible everywhere to help more amputees who cannot afford treatments.
The researchers say that only two of the 400 patients with titanium implants have the electrode system. However, ten more patients are expected to receive the system of electrodes implanted in the nerves and muscles.