Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Artificial organ


The restoration of light response with complex spatiotemporal features in retinal degenerative diseases towards retinal prosthesis has proven to be a considerable challenge over the past decades. Herein, inspired by the structure and function of photoreceptors in retinas, we develop artificial photoreceptors based on gold nanoparticle-decorated titania nanowire arrays, for restoration of visual responses in the blind mice with degenerated photoreceptors. Green, blue and near UV light responses in the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are restored with a spatial resolution better than 100 µm. ON responses in RGCs are blocked by glutamatergic antagonists, suggesting functional preservation of the remaining retinal circuits. Moreover, neurons in the primary visual cortex respond to light after subretinal implant of nanowire arrays. Improvement in pupillary light reflex suggests the behavioral recovery of light sensitivity. Our study will shed light on the development of a new generation of optoelectronic toolkits for subretinal prosthetic devices.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Prosthetics, Artificial organ


Touch perception on the fingers and hand is essential for fine motor control, contributes to our sense of self, allows for effective communication, and aids in our fundamental perception of the world. Despite increasingly sophisticated mechatronics, prosthetic devices still do not directly convey sensation back to their wearers. We show that implanted peripheral nerve interfaces in two human subjects with upper limb amputation provided stable, natural touch sensation in their hands for more than 1 year. Electrical stimulation using implanted peripheral nerve cuff electrodes that did not penetrate the nerve produced touch perceptions at many locations on the phantom hand with repeatable, stable responses in the two subjects for 16 and 24 months. Patterned stimulation intensity produced a sensation that the subjects described as natural and without “tingling,” or paresthesia. Different patterns produced different types of sensory perception at the same location on the phantom hand. The two subjects reported tactile perceptions they described as natural tapping, constant pressure, light moving touch, and vibration. Changing average stimulation intensity controlled the size of the percept area; changing stimulation frequency controlled sensation strength. Artificial touch sensation improved the subjects' ability to control grasping strength of the prosthesis and enabled them to better manipulate delicate objects. Thus, electrical stimulation through peripheral nerve electrodes produced long-term sensory restoration after limb loss.

Concepts: Perception, Sense, Somatosensory system, Amputation, Prosthesis, Artificial organ, Proprioception, Illusion


Over time, leg prostheses have improved in design, but have been incapable of actively adapting to different walking velocities in a manner comparable to a biological limb. People with a leg amputation using such commercially available passive-elastic prostheses require significantly more metabolic energy to walk at the same velocities, prefer to walk slower and have abnormal biomechanics compared with non-amputees. A bionic prosthesis has been developed that emulates the function of a biological ankle during level-ground walking, specifically providing the net positive work required for a range of walking velocities. We compared metabolic energy costs, preferred velocities and biomechanical patterns of seven people with a unilateral transtibial amputation using the bionic prosthesis and using their own passive-elastic prosthesis to those of seven non-amputees during level-ground walking. Compared with using a passive-elastic prosthesis, using the bionic prosthesis decreased metabolic cost by 8 per cent, increased trailing prosthetic leg mechanical work by 57 per cent and decreased the leading biological leg mechanical work by 10 per cent, on average, across walking velocities of 0.75-1.75 m s(-1) and increased preferred walking velocity by 23 per cent. Using the bionic prosthesis resulted in metabolic energy costs, preferred walking velocities and biomechanical patterns that were not significantly different from people without an amputation.

Concepts: Energy, Prosthetics, Amputation, Prosthesis, Artificial organ, Artificial limb, C-Leg, Cyborg


Studies have shown the effectiveness of cervical disk replacement. However, clinical outcomes, particularly by radiographic assessment during the 36-month follow-up visit, have not been reported for cervical disk replacement with Mobi-C (LDR, Austin, Texas) disk prostheses. A retrospective study was conducted at 10 centers across China and included 65 patients who underwent single-level Mobi-C disk prosthesis replacement from October 2009 to July 2010. Clinical and radiographic data were collected before replacement, 7 days postoperatively, and 1, 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36 months postoperatively. Clinical and neurologic outcomes were assessed by the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) score, visual analog scale (VAS), Neck Disability Index (NDI), and Odom’s criteria. Static and dynamic radiographs were measured to determine intervertebral height and range of motion (ROM) of the cervical spine, the functional spinal unit, the treated segment, and adjacent segments. JOA, VAS, and NDI scores showed statistically significant improvement 36 months after replacement (P<.05). The ROM of the cervical spine, functional spinal unit, treated segment, and adjacent segments did not show a significant difference before and after replacement (P>.05). The intervertebral height of the treated segment increased significantly, and the intervertebral height of adjacent segments showed no statistical significance between time points and at follow-up. Clinical outcomes indicated that Mobi-C artificial cervical disk replacement is reliable. Radiographic data showed that it plays a role in reconstruction or maintenance of intervertebral height and ROM of the cervical spine, functional spinal unit, treated segment, and adjacent segments after Mobi-C cervical disk replacement.

Concepts: Statistics, Statistical significance, Vertebral column, Ronald Fisher, Statistical hypothesis testing, Circle, Artificial organ, Cervical vertebrae


Patients with bilateral vestibulopathy (BVP) suffer from persistent imbalance during standing and walking as well as an impaired gaze stabilization during head movements. Disabilities associated with BVP severely compromise patients' daily activities and are often linked to an increased risk of falls. Currently, the only established treatment option in BVP is physical therapy. However, treatment effects of physical therapy in BVP are most often limited and many patients do not adequately recover performance. Therefore, a number of technical therapeutic approaches are being explored that either try to substitute lost vestibular sensation with a congruent stimulation of other sense modalities or to artificially mimic vestibular function by means of an implantable vestibular prosthesis. Besides, attempts have recently been made to augment and optimize residual vestibular function in patients with BVP using an imperceptible noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation (nGVS). This approach is based on the natural phenomenon of stochastic resonance, wherein the signal processing in sensory systems can be improved by adding an appropriate level of noise to the system. Promising first study outcomes of nGVS treatment in patients with BVP indicate the feasibility of a future non-invasive sensory prosthetic device for BVP rehabilitation. This paper gives an overview about recent research on nGVS treatment in patients with BVP and discusses future research perspectives in this field.

Concepts: Therapy, Vestibular system, Sensory system, Sense, Disability, Prosthesis, Artificial organ, Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation


Sensory receptors in human skin transmit a wealth of tactile and thermal signals from external environments to the brain. Despite advances in our understanding of mechano- and thermosensation, replication of these unique sensory characteristics in artificial skin and prosthetics remains challenging. Recent efforts to develop smart prosthetics, which exploit rigid and/or semi-flexible pressure, strain and temperature sensors, provide promising routes for sensor-laden bionic systems, but with limited stretchability, detection range and spatio-temporal resolution. Here we demonstrate smart prosthetic skin instrumented with ultrathin, single crystalline silicon nanoribbon strain, pressure and temperature sensor arrays as well as associated humidity sensors, electroresistive heaters and stretchable multi-electrode arrays for nerve stimulation. This collection of stretchable sensors and actuators facilitate highly localized mechanical and thermal skin-like perception in response to external stimuli, thus providing unique opportunities for emerging classes of prostheses and peripheral nervous system interface technologies.

Concepts: Nervous system, Sense, Prosthetics, Prosthesis, Artificial organ


A tool such as a prosthetic device that extends or restores movement may become part of the identity of the person to whom it belongs. For example, some individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) adapt their body and action representation to incorporate their wheelchairs. However, it remains unclear whether the bodily assimilation of a relevant external tool develops as a consequence of altered sensory and motor inputs from the body or of prolonged confinement sitting or lying in the wheelchair. To explore such relationships, we used a principal component analysis (PCA) on collected structured reports detailing introspective experiences of wheelchair use in 55 wheelchair-bound individuals with SCI. Among all patients, the regular use of a wheelchair induced the perception that the body’s edges are not fixed, but are instead plastic and flexible to include the wheelchair. The PCA revealed the presence of three major components. In particular, the functional aspect of the sense of embodiment concerning the wheelchair appeared to be modulated by disconnected body segments. Neither an effect of time since injury nor an effect of exposure to/experience of was detected. Patients with lesions in the lower spinal cord and with loss of movement and sensation in the legs but who retained upper body movement showed a higher degree of functional embodiment than those with lesions in the upper spinal cord and impairment in the entire body. In essence, the tool did not become an extension of the immobile limbs; rather, it became an actual tangible substitution of the functionality of the affected body part. These findings suggest that the brain can incorporate relevant artificial tools into the body schema via the natural process of continuously updating bodily signals. The ability to embody new essential objects extends the potentiality of physically impaired persons and can be used for their rehabilitation.

Concepts: Spinal cord, Principal component analysis, Disability, Spinal cord injury, Artificial organ, Physical trauma, Wheelchair, Disability rights movement


Despite emergent progress in many fields of bionics, a functional Bionic Voice prosthesis for laryngectomy patients (larynx amputees) has not yet been achieved, leading to a lifetime of vocal disability for these patients. This study introduces a novel framework of Pneumatic Bionic Voice Prostheses as an electronic adaptation of the Pneumatic Artificial Larynx (PAL) device. The PAL is a non-invasive mechanical voice source, driven exclusively by respiration with an exceptionally high voice quality, comparable to the existing gold standard of Tracheoesophageal (TE) voice prosthesis. Following PAL design closely as the reference, Pneumatic Bionic Voice Prostheses seem to have a strong potential to substitute the existing gold standard by generating a similar voice quality while remaining non-invasive and non-surgical. This paper designs the first Pneumatic Bionic Voice prosthesis and evaluates its onset and offset control against the PAL device through pre-clinical trials on one laryngectomy patient. The evaluation on a database of more than five hours of continuous/isolated speech recordings shows a close match between the onset/offset control of the Pneumatic Bionic Voice and the PAL with an accuracy of 98.45 ±0.54%. When implemented in real-time, the Pneumatic Bionic Voice prosthesis controller has an average onset/offset delay of 10 milliseconds compared to the PAL. Hence it addresses a major disadvantage of previous electronic voice prostheses, including myoelectric Bionic Voice, in meeting the short time-frames of controlling the onset/offset of the voice in continuous speech.

Concepts: Human voice, Larynx, Phonation, Vocal folds, Amputation, Prosthesis, Artificial organ, Cyborg


Retinal prosthetics offer hope for patients with retinal degenerative diseases. There are 20-25 million people worldwide who are blind or facing blindness due to these diseases, and they have few treatment options. Drug therapies are able to help a small fraction of the population, but for the vast majority, their best hope is through prosthetic devices [reviewed in Chader et al. (2009) Prog Brain Res 175:317-332]. Current prosthetics, however, are still very limited in the vision that they provide: for example, they allow for perception of spots of light and high-contrast edges, but not natural images. Efforts to improve prosthetic capabilities have focused largely on increasing the resolution of the device’s stimulators (either electrodes or optogenetic transducers). Here, we show that a second factor is also critical: driving the stimulators with the retina’s neural code. Using the mouse as a model system, we generated a prosthetic system that incorporates the code. This dramatically increased the system’s capabilities-well beyond what can be achieved just by increasing resolution. Furthermore, the results show, using 9,800 optogenetically stimulated ganglion cell responses, that the combined effect of using the code and high-resolution stimulation is able to bring prosthetic capabilities into the realm of normal image representation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Retina, Prosthetics, Prosthesis, Artificial organ


Upper limb amputation deprives individuals of their innate ability to manipulate objects. Such disability can be restored with a robotic prosthesis linked to the brain by a human-machine interface (HMI) capable of decoding voluntary intentions, and sending motor commands to the prosthesis. Clinical or research HMIs rely on the interpretation of electrophysiological signals recorded from the muscles. However, the quest for an HMI that allows for arbitrary and physiologically appropriate control of dexterous prostheses, is far from being completed. Here we propose a new HMI that aims to track the muscles contractions with implanted permanent magnets, by means of magnetic field sensors. We called this a myokinetic control interface. We present the concept, the features and a demonstration of a prototype which exploits six 3-axis sensors to localize four magnets implanted in a forearm mockup, for the control of a dexterous hand prosthesis. The system proved highly linear (R2 = 0.99) and precise (1% repeatability), yet exhibiting short computation delay (45 ms) and limited cross talk errors (10% the mean stroke of the magnets). Our results open up promising possibilities for amputees, demonstrating the viability of the myokinetic approach in implementing direct and simultaneous control over multiple digits of an artificial hand.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Earth's magnetic field, Magnet, Magnetism, Amputation, Prosthesis, Artificial organ, Artificial heart valve