Marine Corps Staff Sgt. James Sides is the first person to test a prosthetic robotic hand

The California-based Alfred E Mann Foundation, with support from Defense Department agencies, has developed the implantable myoelectric sensor system (IMES), a muscle-controlled prosthetic hand for military amputees.

Currently under clinical trials for Food and Drug Administration approval, the new technology enables patients to intuitively control prosthetic hand movements with sensors implanted into forearm muscles.

The technology is currently being tested on 31-year-old Marine Corps staff sergeant James Sides, who lost his right hand in Afghanistan.

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician and chairman Dr Paul Pasquina said that signals which come from the brain are helped along by a wireless communication scheme that modulates a magnetic field generated by a coil laminated in the wall of the prosthetic arm.

"We knew if we could somehow tap into the muscles in the forearm, not only would you be able to control each of those independent movements, you’d be able to do it much more intuitively," Pasquina added.

The second patient to receive the new arm has also been identified and is likely to undergo the surgery this month.

"We’re interested in developing technology that’s not going to help one or two injured service members," Pasquina added. We want this technology to help all individuals with limb loss."

A grant request has been submitted to the US Department of Defense to expand the IMES technology to people with lower-limb loss.

Image: Marine Corps staff sergeant James Sides with his prosthetic robotic hand. Photo: courtesy of Sharon Holland.

Defence Technology