Thanks to 3D printing and a lot of technology developed, this reality has changed significantly and today we can control them with our mind and predict movement. Even so, even the most advanced prostheses can be improved. Let’s get acquainted with the electronic skin that allows amputees to use “feel” on their dentures. It is not yet possible for the individual to feel when he/she is touching something, be it texture, or temperature.

E-dermis – the electronic skin

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, USA, in an attempt to overcome this denture quality barrier, have created a new electronic dermis (e-dermis). When placed on a prosthetic device, this artificial skin allows the individual to have sensations in the limb that is missing. The study was published in the journal Science Robotics this past Wednesday. In order to create this new dermis, researchers have looked at the human skin and have noticed that it transmits to the brain a variety of sensations that let you know if what we are touching is strong or soft, hot or cold, hard or soft, for example.

The device, developed by researchers, was designed to convey two specific sensations: the curvature of an object and its sharpness. E-dermis was achieved through a combination of tissues and rubber, to which layers of sensors were added, in order to mimic the receptors on human skin. These can send the sensations detected in an object to the peripheral nerves of the prosthesis via wires. In order to understand what kind of information the device should send to the individual, the researchers used a technique called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that aims to stimulate the peripheral nerves of the individual’s residual limb and ask what they felt in their amputated limb. For example, a certain level of TENS at a particular limb site produces a sensation of pain in the phantom thumb. Researchers would be able to provide this level of electronic stimulation to that location when the prosthesis thumb touched something equally painful, like a sharp object. They detected the brain activity through electroencephalography (EEG) to confirm that the process stimulated the phantom limb. In order for the prostheses to look more real and protected from damage, researchers have taught e-dermis to encode, as well as human skin, electronically different sensations. Luke Atlantic, a co-author of The Atlantic’s study, said he felt his hand, after many years, “as if a hollow shell filled with life again.” He points out that he can “differentiate between pain and non-pain without thinking, knowing instinctively if the arm is in danger.” In a press release, researchers note that the e-dermis may eventually help provide robots with the ability to “sense” human sensations. For now, the ability of an amputated human being to have the possibility to feel again is only in itself already exciting. So, what do you think about this? Simply share all your views and thoughts in the comment section below.