A multi-disciplinary group of researchers at Idaho State University (ISU), Pocatella, has received an additional $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to enter phase II of a project to develop a new type of prosthetic hand.
“The prosthetic hand we are building is very different from other artificial hands that are out there,” said Subbaram Naidu, PhD, the grant’s principal investigator and an ISU professor and associate dean of its college of engineering. “Our artificial hand will not be preprogrammed. Instead, our hand will allow users to control in real time a much broader range of motions.”
According to ISU, the myoelectric hand is intended to simulate natural grasping, lifting, and twisting motions. The researchers are currently attempting to identify and classify which nerve signals correspond to intended hand motions. In the next stage of research, they will try to develop and test an embedded “intelligent” control for the hand. The researchers will also test the biocompatibility of the hand and are exploring the use of new materials that are less likely to cause inflammatory reactions.
The new Phase II grant is a boon for ISU graduate students, providing funding to employ eight doctoral students, plus several master’s students in various disciplines. According to ISU, the research team includes five members of the faculty of ISU’s college of engineering: Naidu, Professor Marco Schoen, PhD; Assistant Professor Alba Perez, PhD; Associate Professor Steve Chiu; and Professor Solomon Leung, PhD. They work in collaboration with Professor Alex Urfer, PhD, and Associate Professor Jim Creelman, PT, from the university’s department of physical and occupational therapy and Professor James Lai from its college of pharmacy.
“This is a worthwhile project not only because of the benefits it can potentially provide the military, but…the civilian population as well,” Schoen said. “We want to make the hand as affordable as possible.”