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With new bionic fingers, partial-hand amputees regain motor skills

Scottish scientists have created the world's first powered bionic fingers for partial-hand amputees.
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Written by Andrew Nusca, Former editor on

Scottish scientists have created the world's first powered bionic fingers for partial-hand amputees.

Called ProDigits, the prosthesis has a silicone skin and movable thumb that allows amputees the functionality to grasp, place and manipulate objects.

The manufacturer, Scotland-based Touch Bionics, is known for its i-Limb Hand, a full-hand prosthetic with five individually powered digits that was launched in 2006. ProDigits fills the gap for amputees who are missing a few, but not all, fingers.

The sockets for the prosthesis are custom-designed by clinicians to fit the individual.

"Vocational and social reengagement is very important to a patient's rehabilitation after a traumatic event," Touch Bionics CEO Stuart Mead said in prepared remarks. "Partial-hand injuries are, by their nature, challenging aesthetically and functionally....our goal is to provide all that we can to reinstate a patient's function and interaction with other people in their chosen lifestyle and career."

ProDigits can be powered in two ways: using myoelectric sensors that register muscle signals from the patient's remaining finger or palm, or with a pressure-sensitive switch input ("touch pad," effectively) that responds to the tissue around the metacarpal bone to provide enough pressure to activate the digit.

To accommodate for grip -- after all, no one wants a crushing handshake -- a stall feature detects when digits close around an object.

Touch Bionics says it is developing a clinical collaborator program in North America to partner with practitioners to fit each patient individually, and will distribute ProDigits to 40 countries worldwide.

And the cost? Between $57,000 and $73,000.

Here's a video of the device:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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