New prosthetics to restore feeling in amputeesOctober 26th, 2009 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Oct 26 (IANS) Existing prosthetics offer patients no real neurological control. But two new ones may bring “real feel” to artificial limbs.
Plastic surgeons reveal they have discovered an electrically conducting molecule or polymer (PEDOT) that helps stimulate and grow new nerve fibres in severed nerves of amputees.
Stimulating and growing nerve fibres are one of the first steps in providing amputees more neurological (nerve related) control over their prosthetics.
The research, conducted through a $5.5 million US Department of Defence grant, may give amputees the ability to move fingers independently, apply the appropriate amount of pressure to objects to better grab and lift something as delicate as Styrofoam cup, and feel sensation.
In one study, plastic surgeons may have found a way to successfully grow new nerve fibres, after they’ve been severed due to injury, through the electrically conducting PEDOT polymer.
The PEDOT, which functions like a wire, was placed in a tube, along with other biologic and synthetic materials, and grafted into the severed leg nerve of a rat. New nerve fibres grew and took over function for the dead or dysfunctional severed nerve, springing targeted muscles to life.
In another study, plastic surgeons designed a cup containing cells and muscle that fits around the severed leg nerve of a rat.
The PEDOT polymer was wrapped around all of the cells and muscle in the cup to provide an electrical charge. Tests were conducted 114 days after the procedure, says an American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) release.
The study found new muscle and blood vessels formed, nerve fibres sprouted, and muscle fibres started compensating for lost nerves. After tickling the rat’s paw, doctors’ were able to pick up electrical signals indicating sensation had returned.
These finding were presented at the ongoing Plastic Surgery 2009 conference in Seattle.
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Tags: amputees, artificial limbs, blood vessels, department of defence, electrical charge, electrical signals, first steps, muscle and blood, muscle fibres, nerve fibres, nerves, neurological control, paw, pedot, plastic surgery, polymer, related control, society of plastic surgeons, styrofoam cup, synthetic materials