October 17, 2023

Robotics Lend Amputee Woman a Hand

A tragedy befell a woman named Karin over two decades ago when she lost her forearm and hand in a farming accident, but science has stepped in and given her a better grip on life, with a “groundbreaking” robotic prosthesis.

Professor Max Ortiz Catalan, head of neural prosthetics research at the Bionics Institute in Australia, and founder of the Center for Bionics and Pain Research (CBPR) in Sweden, has given Karin a new lease on life after years of struggling with phantom limb pain – a persisting pain or uncomfortable sensation in a missing limb.

Last Tuesday, 10 October, the Swedish patient shared her life with the Italian contingent of CBPR researchers: “It felt like I constantly had my hand in a meat grinder, which created a high level of stress and I had to take high doses of various painkillers.”

Her experience is not dissimilar to what many amputees go through, especially when trying to live with a replacement limb, which are often felt to be clumsy and awkward to use.

However, Catalan and his team of international engineers, scientists and surgeons have taken a new approach to prostheses: creating a new human-machine interface that allows the replacement limb to connect directly to the patient’s skeletal and nervous systems with a network of electrode implants.

Catalan explained that the result allowed Karin to “use her prosthesis comfortably and effectively in daily activities for years”, which “is a promising testament to the potential life-changing capabilities of this novel technology for individuals facing limb loss.”

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