Sergeant James Sides lost his right arm in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Now, he’s the first patient to receive an muscle connected implant to control a prosthetic limb. From Popular Science:
The implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) in Sides’ right arm can read his muscles and bypass his mind, translating would-be movement into real movement. The IMES System, as its developers are calling it, could be the first implanted multi-channel controller for prosthetics. Sides is the first patient in an investigational device trial approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“I have another hand now,” he says.
It uses the residual muscles in an amputee’s arm — which would normally control and command muscle movement down the hand — and picks up their signals with a half-dozen electrodes. The tiny platinum/iridium electrodes, about 0.66 inches long and a tenth of an inch wide, are embedded directly into the patient’s muscle. They are powered by magnetic induction, so there would be no need to swap batteries or plug them in — a crucial development in making them user-friendly, according to Dr. Paul Pasquina, principal investigator on the IMES system and former chief of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Walter Reed.
It translates muscle signals into hand action in less than 100 milliseconds. To Sides, it’s instantaneous: “I still close what I think is my hand,” he says. “I open my hand, and rotate it up and down; I close my fingers and the hand closes. It’s exactly as if I still had a hand. It’s pretty gnarly.”