The second person in the world received an innovative prosthetic hand after surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). The surgery and prosthesis are expected to restore a meaningful sense of touch and grip force to the upper-limb prosthesis user. The clinical trial participant has been learning to use the neural-enabled prosthesis at the university since the surgery in January.
Snell Prosthetics and Orthotics, with ten facilities in Arkansas, was part of the medical care team. The prosthesis was invented and developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health by an engineering team led by Ranu Jung, PhD, and James Abbas, PhD, at the UA Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I³R). The device has an investigational device exemption status from the US Food and Drug Administration.
In preparation for the prosthesis fitting, a lengthy and detailed operation was led by neurosurgeon Erika Petersen, MD. The surgical team implanted 15 microelectrodes and other components that are part of the Jung-Abbas device, which enable communication between the brain and the prosthesis through the residual arm’s median and ulnar nerves. Preparation included training and practice for the surgery with the I3R team, including on a human cadaver.
As an expert in neuromodulation, Petersen ensured that the neurostimulator portion of the device was placed appropriately. The neurostimulator receives commands from the prosthesis-mounted components and produces electrical pulses that get conveyed to the patient’s nervous system, enabling the sense of touch.
As part of the collaboration, the step-by-step implant procedure developed by the I3R team was displayed on a large screen during the surgery, and the team was on hand to provide clarification as needed.
Abbas, who has a joint appointment with UAMS in the Department of Neurosurgery, led discussions that brought the team of UAMS surgeons, Snell P&O, and health technology companies together with I³R’s Adaptive Neural Systems Group. The UAMS Translational Research Institute has also facilitated collaboration on the study “Neural enabled prosthesis for upper limb amputees.”
“As researchers pioneering innovations to make a positive societal impact, we need academic and industry partners who are on the leading-edge with us,” Abbas said. “Our collaboration with UAMS and Snell is an example of the type of innovative work that is happening in Arkansas.”
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.