CU Boulder instructor researching ways for amputees to feel again using prosthetic hands


BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Jacob Segil, an instructor at CU Boulder’s Engineering Plus Program, is now helping design prosthetic hands that could allow amputees to actually feel.

That could benefit many veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus plenty of others.
“The overall goal is to recreate what was lost,” Segil said.

Right now prosthetics are high tech, but some amputees choose not to use them because they feel like a tool, not a part of them, and there is no sensation.

Through an effort led by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, Segil and his colleagues are working to change that.

“We are using sensors in the hand that effectively lead into the body through a neural interface, and recreate the sense of touch,” he said.

This is a huge breakthrough. Only four people have had the technology surgically implanted, but a new study showed how versatile the new limb can be with one of the amputees.

“The hand was in a box. He couldn’t see it, but he could feel where the hand was in space,” Segil said.

Now Segil, who is also a researcher at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, has received a $1 million grant from the VA to study how best to stimulate the nervous system so the artificial devices can feel like a part of a person.

Segil’s work will span to CU Boulder and the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora.

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