Imagine a patient controlling the movement of his or her prosthetic limb simply by thinking of commands.
It may sound like science fiction but will soon become reality thanks to the EU-funded DeTOP project.
A consortium of engineers, neuroscientists and clinicians has made great strides in further developing the technology behind more natural and functional prostheses.
The team uses an osseointegrated human-machine gateway (OHMG) to develop a physical link between a person and a robotic prosthesis.
A patient in Sweden was the first recipient of titanium implants with the OHMG system.
The OHMG is directly fitted to bones in the user’s arms, from which electrodes to nerves and muscle extract signals to control a robotic hand and provide tactile sensations.
According to a news item by “News Medical,” the patient will begin using a training prosthesis in the next few months before being fitted with the new artificial hand developed by DeTOP partners.
This will help the team evaluate the entire system, including the implanted interface, electronics, as well as wrist and hand functions.
Motor coordination and grip strength will also be assessed during the tests.
In the same news item, project coordinator Christian Cipriani from the Sant”Anna School of Advanced Studies says: “The implant gives us a unique opportunity to study how the brain communicates with the new hand.
Control should be very natural – for example, the patient should be able to think of moving the index finger and the index finger should move on that command.”
More patients are lined up for such surgery with OHMG implants that involve different types of arm amputations to make sure that the system is flexible enough to suit a wide range of needs.
“Work is also continuing on developing integrated circuits capable of collecting bio-signals from users.
These circuits are implanted into a person with the aim of making the human-to-machine link even more efficient and responsive,” the news item adds.
The DeTOP (Dexterous Transradial Osseointegrated Prosthesis with neural control and sensory feedback) project’s objective is “to develop the next-generation transradial prosthesis by clinically implementing robotic, sensing and long-term interfacing technologies,” as stated on CORDIS.
Transradial prostheses are devices used by below-elbow amputees.
The ongoing project has shown that neuromuscular interfaces developed decades ago can significantly improve prosthetic control and functionality, if made clinically viable by having a long-term stable OHMG.
The project’s outcomes will have implications for various areas, including the biomedical industry, neurosciences, upper limb occupational therapy and consumer electronics.
It will also have an impact on surgery procedures for people suffering from limb amputation and for those with disabling motor deficits due to other neurological diseases such as stroke, brain and spinal cord trauma, brachial or lumbosacral plexus, and peripheral nerve injuries. DeTOP ends in 2020.
Two amputees are the first people in the world able to control their Bionic prosthetic legs with their thoughts, thanks to tiny implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) that have been surgically placed in their residual muscle tissue. The IMES, which was provided by the Alfred Mann Foundation, instantaneously triggers the desired movement, via a receiver located inside the prosthesis. This process occurs subconsciously, continuously and in real-time.
The announcement was made today by Jon Sigurdsson, President & CEO of Össur, the global innovator credited with creating the world’s first Bionic prostheses for amputees.
“Mind-controlled Bionic prosthetic legs are a remarkable clinical breakthrough in next-generation Bionic technology,” Sigurdsson said, speaking at the company’s Capital Markets Day in Copenhagen. “By adapting not only to the individual’s intentional movements but to intuitive actions, we are closer than ever to creating prosthetics that are truly integrated with their user.”
How Mind-Controlled Bionic Prosthetics Work
Össur’s commercially available Bionic prostheses are smart limbs capable of real-time learning and automatically adjusting to their user’s walking style (gait), speed and terrain. Walking with a Bionic prosthesis, however, still typically requires some conscious, intentional thought from the user.
According to Dr. Thorvaldur Ingvarsson, M.D., Ph.D, the orthopaedic surgeon who leads Össur’s research and development efforts and spearheaded the mind-controlled prosthetics project, movement in able-bodied individuals generally begins subconsciously, which triggers electrical impulses inside the body that catalyze the appropriate muscles into action.
Össur’s new technology replicates that process in an amputee: that electronic impulse from the brain is received by an IMES that was surgically placed by Dr. Ingvarsson into muscles in the amputee’s residual limb.
“The technology allows the user’s experience with their prosthesis to become more intuitive and integrative,” Dr. Ingvarsson said.
“The result is the instantaneous physical movement of the prosthesis however the amputee intended. They no longer need to think about their movements because their unconscious reflexes are automatically converted into myoelectric impulses that control their Bionic prosthesis.”
Promising First-In-Man Results
According to Dr. Ingvarsson, the mind-controlled technology works with all current commercially available Össur Bionic prostheses, including the company’s POWER KNEE, RHEO KNEE, PROPRIO FOOT and SYMBIONIC LEG.
Two amputees have participated in the company’s initial First-in-Man research. Both were implanted with the IMES and have been living with Össur’s mind-controlled Bionic prostheses for more than one year. Dr. Ingvarsson notes that feedback from both users has been very positive, and that clinical trials to further assess the technology will continue.
“As a global leader in prosthetics and orthopaedics, we at Össur never stop innovating. We are resolute in our commitment to expand the boundaries of possibility, so that we may help even more people enjoy a life without limitations,” Sigurdsson concluded.
Össur (NASDAQ: OSSR) is a global leader in non-invasive orthopaedics that help people live a life without limitations. Its business is focused on improving people’s mobility through the delivery of innovative technologies within the fields of Prosthetic, Osteoarthritis and Injury Solutions.
A recognized “Technology Pioneer,” Össur invests significantly in research and product development—its award-winning designs ensuring a consistently strong position in the market. Successful patient and clinical outcomes are further empowered via Össur’s educational programs and business solutions. Headquartered in Iceland, Össur has major operations in the Americas, Europe and Asia, with additional distributors worldwide. www.ossur.com
More information: DeTOP project website: www.detop-project.eu/
Provided by CORDIS