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The bionic hand: how a crazy idea has become a medical breakthrough

More than two decades ago, a hand prosthesis able to give back a sense of touch to amputees would have been dubbed as science fiction. Today this has been proved possible, and now the goal is to make this technology available for as many patients as possible.

Fundamental Research

In December 2016 Loretana Puglisi, an Italian entrepreneur from Palazzolo Acreide, near Siracusa, lost her left hand in a work-related accident. At the time she could never have imagined that two years later she would be able to feel the softness of the hair of a cat once more. For about six months she tested a surgically implanted bionic prosthesis, which is the last prototype developed under research that started more than 20 years ago. Silvestro Micera, a professor of bioengineering at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa and the Polytechnic of Lausanne, is one of the researchers who have led this study. “In particular I deal with neuroengineering. This means recovering the connection between external systems, such as prostheses, and people’s nervous systems. The aim is to recreate, for example, tactile, natural sensations even after they have lost a hand,” Micera says. He explains that patients who have lost a leg often don’t use their prosthesis, as the ones currently available on the market don’t give enough added value to their quality of life than the cosmetic solutions. To read and watch the full interview click here:


future and emerging technologies, EIC Pathfinder, bionic hand, Silvestro Micera