Prosthetics that Feel
A very encouraging headline:
A replacement limb that moves, feels and responds just like flesh and blood. It’s the holy grail of prosthetics research. The Pentagon’s invested millions to make it happen. But it’s been elusive — until, quite possibly, now.
The body’s own nerves are arguably the biggest barrier towards turning the dream of lifelike replacements into a reality. Peripheral nerves, severed by amputation, can no longer transmit or receive any of the myriad sensory signals we rely on every day. Trying to fuse them with robot limbs, to create a direct neural-prosthetic interface, is no easy task.
But now a team of scientists believe they’ve overcome that massive barrier. Their research is still in the early stages. But if successful, it’d yield artificial arms and legs that can move with agility; discern hot from lukewarm from freezing; and restore even the subtlest sensations of touch.
The advances in prosthetics over the past two decades have been amazing. Artificial limbs that are able to feel will go a long way towards achieving the ultimate goal, but they are not themselves the end game. Ultimately we want to see new limbs grown from stem cells.
And who knows? Possibly printed out.