A 46-year-old woman has been fitted with the world’s first “bionic” device that is capable of producing coordinated fine hand and arm movement.
The woman has suffered two strokes that have affected her control over her left arm. On 13 May neuro-rehabilitation experts at the University of Southampton in the UK inserted five implants into the limb, each measuring 1.7 centimetres by 2.4 millimetres. These receive power and stimulation commands from a radio-frequency coil fitted to her arm and connected to a control unit.
The implants are selectively placed to stimulate key nerves controlling both deep and superficial muscles, allowing the patient to extend her elbow and wrist and open her hand. The system is intended to re-educate weak and paralysed muscles by supporting, rather than replacing, voluntary movements.