In findings to be released Oct. 14 at the annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, Cederna and colleagues report that they developed a kind of junction that nerve fibers grow into. This allows a connection between the prosthesis and the brain.
"From our research we've done so far, it's working fantastically in a rat model, and we have good long-term stability," Cederna said. If it passes tests in humans, "it would work anywhere where we want sensory feedback," he said.
The potential cost of the approach in humans remains unclear, he said.
Researchers hope to test their strategy in people in three years.
Dr. Gerald E. Loeb, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, said the new approach could be an advance, but questions remain about how many signals can be transmitted between brain and hand.
The U.S. Department of Defense and the Army have funded the new research with $4.5 million. Many soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning to the United States with amputations.
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand has more on prosthetics.
SOURCES: Paul S. Cederna, M.D., plastic and reconstructive surgeon, University of Michigan Health System, and associate professor of surgery, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Gerald E. Loeb, M.D., professor, biomedical engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Oct. 14, 2009, presentation, American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress, Chicago
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