One Step Closer to the Bionic Man

What a time to be alive:

Amputees could "feel" their lost arms and hands after scientists reconnected the nerves to their chests in an experiment that holds promise for providing sensation in artificial limbs, according to a report released Monday.

In two patients who had lost arms, scientists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University rerouted to their chests the key nerves that had transferred sensation from the hand to the brain.

After several months during which the nerves reestablished themselves in the chest muscles, physical pressure, heat and cold, and electrical stimulus were applied to the areas of the nerves and the patients said they could feel their missing arms and hands.

In some of the testing, the patients could even specify which area on the hand they could feel; one, a woman identified as STH, at one point pinpointed a strong feeling of the skin stretching and the joint position of her ring finger being extended.

Moreover, the patients consistently distinguished between the sensation of the chest nerves and those of the missing limbs.

The scientists suggest their success in reviving such specific sensation identified with missing limbs could lead to establishing nervous system feedback in prosthetic devices like artificial hands, arms, feet and legs.