We geeks all have the same platonic prosthesis ideal: Luke Skywalker's awesome Star Wars mech-hand. We're getting there, bit by bit. Dennis Aabo Sørensen's new hand is almost there; it let him feel again.
The hand is the subject of an in-depth paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine today, and has been tested on Sørensen and Sørensen alone. The mecha-gripper works by tapping right into Sørensen's nerves via electrodes in his arm that are stimulated by sensitive pressor sensors on the hand's fingertips. The result? Touch. Touch that Sørensen says feels an awful lot like what he can get out of his good hand.
Silvestro Micera, a neural engineer at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Italy and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne in Switzerland, lead the team of researchers responsible for the touchy-feely mitt and considers it "certainly a major step in the right direction."
The catch? Since the study focused on a single person, it's hard to really draw any conclusions about how mechanical hands like these could work on a larger scale. Not to mention there's the issue of using it for long periods of time; Sørensen only used this one off and on.
There's still a lot of work to be done, so you probably won't want to go losing any hands any time soon. Or ever. But for folks who already have, it looks like touchy-feely solutions are just around the corner. [Livescience]