According to new research by Israeli scientists, a tiny sensor helps to restore the sense of touch in those that have extensive nerve damage or even loss of limbs. The sensor is embedded within the damaged nerve tissue and is connected to a healthy nerve on the opposite side. It is then activated with every touch by sending a new signal to the healthy nerve.
The Israeli engineers say the sensor has been tested and is safe for use in the human body. Additionally, once clinical trials have ended, the sensor can be embedded anywhere in the body.
“Dr. Arami shared with me the difficulty he experiences in treating people who have lost tactile sensation in one organ or another because of injury. It should be understood that this loss of sensation can result from a very wide range of injuries, from minor wounds – like someone chopping a salad and accidentally cutting himself with the knife – to very serious injuries,” said Dr. Ben Maoz of the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.
“Even if the wound can be healed and the injured nerve can be sutured, most times the sense of touch remains damaged. We tackled this challenge together and found a solution that will restore tactile sensation to those who have lost it,” added Dr. Maoz.
Previous treatments include prostheses that allow implantation of sensors where damaged nerves used to be, however, the sensors are difficult to produce and require batteries for operation. With this sensor, there is no need for an outside energy source as the healthy nerve produces the electrical signal for stimulation. It is tiny enough to be embedded in the tip of a finger and can restore some of the feelings to the damaged area.
The sensor functions with the force of friction, as normal. Because of this, the sensor does not need to be charged. Additionally, the signal goes beyond damaged nerves regardless of where the device is implanted.
It is made of materials that are compatible with biological systems. Therefore, it will not warrant an immune response. Also, it requires no maintenance once implanted, and cannot be seen from outside of the body.