In groundbreaking research, scientists have unveiled a state-of-the-art bionic hand that has transformed the life of a Swedish amputee. The prosthetic, termed “Mia Hand”, not only integrates seamlessly with the user’s bone and nervous system but also drastically reduces the phantom pain that many amputees experience.
Karin, the woman at the heart of this success story, lost a significant portion of her right arm below the elbow due to a farming accident over two decades ago. The aftermath of the injury saw her battling with phantom limb pain, a sensation where amputees feel pain in the limb that’s no longer there. Managing this required high dosages of painkillers. Traditional prosthetic hands also proved cumbersome, failing to offer her the ease of use required for day-to-day activities.
The turning point for Karin came when she was introduced to the DeTOP project, an ambitious European Union-funded initiative aimed at pioneering next-generation bionic limbs. Spanning across Europe, the project has engaged a multitude of scientists working collaboratively towards this cause.
Presilia, an Italian company, is credited with crafting the Mia Hand for Karin. This prosthetic hand isn’t just another piece of advanced machinery; it’s a synergy of top-tier technology and innovative medical procedures. Enhanced with AI capabilities, the Mia Hand also benefits from a surgical process known as osseointegration. This involves directly attaching the prosthetic to bone, creating a robust mechanical link. But that’s not all. Electrodes were embedded into Karin’s residual arm muscles and nerves, while some of her nerves were even rerouted. This means Karin’s new bionic hand is now an extension of her neuromusculoskeletal system.
What sets Mia Hand apart is its ability to mimic a natural hand’s functions, driven by Karin’s own nervous system. It provides tactile feedback and can execute about 80% of regular hand functions. Furthermore, Karin’s reliance on medication for phantom pain has seen a significant drop since her transition to Mia Hand. The findings of this transformative research were showcased in the journal Science Robotics.
Max Ortiz-Catalan, the leading researcher from the Bionics Institute in Australia, shared his excitement, emphasizing the significance of the Mia Hand. In a statement from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, he said, “Karin was the pioneer, the first individual with a below-elbow amputation to be fitted with such an advanced bionic hand that she could use seamlessly in her daily life.” He continued to praise the Mia Hand’s potential to revolutionize life for those grappling with limb loss.
Currently, the DeTOP project is working with two other patients, aside from Karin. The long-term vision is for this kind of prosthetic to set a new benchmark for upper limb prostheses. For individuals like Karin, this isn’t just a prosthetic; it’s a second chance at a normal life.