Israeli study offers hope of ‘rewiring’ nerves to restore lost sense of touch

Good News Notes

“New Israeli nanotechnology will restore the sense of touch for people who have lost it due injury or amputation, scientists say.

A Tel Aviv University lab has developed a tiny sensor that can be implanted into fingers, toes, or any other body part that has lost the sense of touch. It “bypasses” the broken nerves in that area, and “wires” the sensation to other healthy nerves.

Biomedical engineer Dr. Ben M. Maoz told The Times of Israel that he had the idea after hearing from Dr. Amir Arami, a colleague at Tel Aviv University and microsurgeon at Sheba Medical Center, about how many of his patients fail to regain sensation. Now he has successfully tested his invention on rats, reporting his success in the peer-reviewed journal ACS Nano.

“This is super exciting, because we were able to generate something that gives real benefits to people facing real problems, and it all started with a chat between me and a friend,” Maoz said.

“There are already some prosthetic limbs that connect to nerves in the body, but the challenge we took on is completely different — people with working hands or fingers, but who have lost sensation and want to once again feel a sense of touch,” he added.

His tiny sensor is implanted in the nerve of the injured limb, and connected to a healthy nerve. The body quickly learns that the nerve is receiving signals from a different source, and interprets them correctly, meaning that the sense of touch is restored.

Maoz said that the technology will have a greater impact on quality of life than is initially obvious, noting that touch is an essential sense for calculating the proper amount of pressure needed to push a button with a finger, or even to walk straight.

“Simple tasks like holding keys or cellphones all require us to have a sense of touch, in order for us to accurately judge the pressure we need to apply,” he said.

The device, though electronic, needs no battery, as it generates power from the very same movement that it is tracking and mimicking in nerve signals, Maoz said….”

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