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Idaho State University working on realistic artificial hands for veterans


Idaho State University has received an $842,000 grant from the Department of Defense to develop a prosthetic hand that, rather than simply being attached, will be implanted and provide a sense of touch and temperature sensation by converting impulses sent to and from the brain.

“The existing commercial technology for arm and hand amputees hasn’t changed significantly in the past six decades,” said D. Subbaram Naidu, an engineering professor at the school who is leading the project. “The Department of Defense is embarking on a research program to fund prosthetic research to revolutionize upper-body prosthetics and to develop artificial arms that will feel, look and perform like a real human arm guided by the central nervous system.”

The “Smart Prosthetic Hand Technology” program has three phases. The grant received in July by the school covers the first 18-month, theoretical phase.

Other ISU professors also are working on the project. Marco Schoen will measure signals from the brain that control muscles, and Naidu will convert those to signals to control the prosthetic hand. A prototype will be built by Alba Perez.

There are significant challenges to the project, said James Lai, associate director of ISU’s Biomedical Research Institute. He and Solomon Leung, an engineering professor, are examining biological effects of implanting the prosthetic hands.

“We will examine how to bypass the tissue rejection problem that has occurred when trying to attach a prosthetic device,” Lai told the Idaho State Journal. “We’ll use this study as a potential springboard to other possible research in tissue engineering and the creation of artificial organs.”

Lai said a prototype hand could be ready for human testing in five years.

Also working on the project is Alex Urfer, chairman of the physical and occupational program in the ISU Kasiska College of Health Professions.

Information from: Idaho State Journal,

–Associated Press

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