Tel Aviv University’s groundbreaking new technology inspires hope among people who have lost their sense of touch in the nerves in a limb after an amputation or injury.
And, the technology involves a small sensor that is implanted in the nerve of the injured limb, for example in the finger and is connected directly to a healthy nerve. Every time the limb touches an object, the sensor is activated and conducts an electrical current to the working nerve, which recreates the sensation of touch.
The researchers emphasize that it is a proven test and safe technology that adapts to the human body and could be implanted anywhere within the human body once clinical trials are conducted.
«It should be understood that this loss of sensation can be the result of a wide range of injuries, from minor injuries, such as someone cutting a salad and accidentally cutting themselves with the knife, to very serious injuries. Even if the wound can heal and the nerve injured can be sutured, in many cases the sense of touch remains damaged. So we decided to tackle this challenge together and find a solution that restores tactile sensation to those who have lost it, «the researchers commented.
In recent years, the field of neural prosthetics has made promising advances to improve the lives of those who have lost sensation in their limbs by implanting sensors in place of damaged nerves. But the existing technology has several major drawbacks, such as complex manufacturing and use, as well as the need for an external power source, such as a battery.
Now, this group of researchers has used cutting-edge technology called the TENG triboelectric nanogenerator to design and test in animal models a small sensor that restores tactile sensation through an electrical current that comes directly from a healthy nerve and does not require an implantation process. or complex loading .
The researchers developed a sensor that can be implanted into a damaged nerve under the fingertip; the sensor connects to another properly functioning nerve and restores some of the tactile sensation to the finger. This unique development does not require external power intervention such as electricity or batteries. The researchers explain that the sensor actually works on the force of friction: every time the device detects friction, it charges itself .
CAN BE IMPLANTED IN ANY PART OF THE BODY
The device consists of two tiny plates less than half a centimeter in size. When these plates come into contact with each other, they release an electrical charge that is transmitted to the healthy nerve. When the injured finger touches something, the touch releases the tension corresponding to the pressure applied to the device (weak tension for a weak touch and strong tension for a strong touch) as in a normal sense of touch.
The researchers explain that the device can be implanted anywhere on the body where tactile sensation needs to be restored, and that it actually bypasses damaged sensory organs.
Additionally, the device is made of biocompatible material that is safe for use in humans, requires no maintenance, implantation is simple, and the device itself is not externally visible.
Thus, after testing the new sensor in the laboratory with more than half a million finger strokes using the device, the researchers implanted it in the feet of animal models.
The animals walked normally, without having experienced any damage to their motor nerves, and tests showed that the sensor allowed them to respond to sensory stimuli .