A biomedical engineer has developed a new type of prosthesis that connects directly to the bone and can be controlled by the user’s own nerves and muscles.
Dr Max Ortiz Catalan claims that the device is the first of its kind. One section combines a titanium implant surgically placed into the humerus, along with a control system that connects electrodes to the muscles and nerves in the arm. These internal components are linked to removable prosthesis, maintaining a mechanical connection with the bone and an electrical connection with the implanted electrodes.
According to Dr Ortiz Catalan, the electrodes give the user precise control, as well as providing tactile feedback to the nervous system from the prosthetic. This gives an enhanced level of interaction with the environment and allows handling of delicate objects such as eggs. As the only contact between prosthetic and arm is via the titanium implant, the chafing and inflammation problems associated with traditional prosthetics are avoided.
“By having a direct connection to the bone and not having any components that disturb the skin, the use increases considerably, as well as the quality of life,” said Ortiz Catalan.
“We aim to make technology that people can use in their daily activities, and we would like it to become a standard treatment for every amputation, thus prices would fall.”
Dr Ortiz Catalan’s research was conducted at Chalmers Technological University in Gothenburg, Sweden, in collaboration with the Sahlgrenska University Hospital, as well as bone anchoring implant specialist Integrum AB.
Osseointegration, or bone-anchored prosthesis, was developed in Sweden in the 1960s. Titanium is commonly used as it integrates with the surrounding bone tissue. Although around 400 people worldwide have such implants, just two have this new system of electrodes implanted in nerves and muscles. It is expected that more than ten patients will receive the neural control system this year.