Italian technology behind robotic-hand first

Woman has prosthesis permanently implanted in Sweden

(ANSA) - Rome, February 5 - A 45-year-old woman in Sweden has undergone surgery to permanently implant a robotic hand that she will be able to use on a daily basis in a world first, sources said Tuesday. The robotic hand was built thanks to the DeTOP European project led by Christian Cipriani of the Pisa Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna's Institute of Bio-robotics. Experts are working to prepare two more operations, in Italy and in Sweden, the sources said. The Swedish woman, whose right hand was amputated in 2002, is following a programme of rehabilitation to regain strength in the muscles of her forearm, which were weakened after the amputation, and, by using virtual reality, is learning to control the robotic hand, researchers and scientists told reporters on Tuesday.
    In the next few weeks, they said, she will be able to go home and use the new hand every day.
    "Thanks to this human-machine interface that is so accurate," Cipriani said, "and thanks to the skill and degree of sensitivity of the artificial hand, we expect that in the space of a few months the woman will regain motor and perceptive functions very similar to those of a natural hand".
    The surgical operation took place in Goethenburg, at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
    The operating surgeons were Richard Brånemark and Paolo Sassu. They implanted into the forearm (radius and ulna) of the woman titanium structures as a bridge between bones and nerve endings on the one side and the robotic hand on the other, the scientists said.
    Thanks to 16 electrodes inserted into the residual muscles, it was possible to establish a direct connection between the prosthesis and the nervous system.
    In this way, the robotic hand can be controlled in a more effective way and it becomes possible to restore the sense of touch too.
    The implant was developed in Sweden by a group coordinated by Max Ortiz Catalan, of the Integrum company, in collaboration with the Chalmers University of Technology. The robot hand was realised by the dalla Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa and the Prensilia company, a spin-off of the Sant'Anna BioRobotics Institute, within the framework of the DeTOP project (Dexterous Transradial Osseointegrated with neural control and sensory feedback), financed by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 programme.
    Other collaborators include the Swedish universities of Lund and Gothenburg, the University of Essex, the Swiss Centre for Eletcronics and Microtecnologiay, Rome's Università Campus Bio-Medico, the Centro Protesi of Italian work-accident insurance agency Inail and the Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli in Bologna. Cipriani told ANSA that "the next implant will be made in Italy by the dal Campus Biomedico di Roma and the Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli di Bologna".
    "We are looking for a candidate who lends themself to an intervention similar to that carried out in Sweden, but who has a different case file".
    For this reason, he said, it is hard to predict when the operation will take place.