Scientists have finally developed a prosthetic leg that amputees get a sensation about.
While prosthetic limbs are far better than in the 20th century, their biggest flaw is that they are not exactly part of someone’s body.
Amputees cannot feel them, so they are at perennial risk of falling, needing to focus and must keep a big eye on the leg’s position at all times.
The researchers have now solved a lot of problems, letting people feel every time their prosthetic foot touches the ground or knee bends to walk.
Their new prosthetic leg does this by transmitting electrical signals to four electrodes surgically put into the tibial nerve in someone’s thigh.
The nerve would usually pick up feeling from the foot and lower leg so it can be hijacked to do it for a metal leg and rubber foot with eight sensors fixed to it.
The leg has been observed to be working fine with three people with above-the-knee amputations, who were able to walk stairs 30 percent faster and avoided tripping over obstacles that were not visible.
Djurica Resanovic, amongst the amputees, who lost his leg in a motorcycle incident, said: ‘After all of this time, I could sense my leg and my foot again as if it were really my own leg.
‘It was very cool. You do not need to focus to walk, you can just look forward and step. You do not need to see where your leg is to avoid the falling.’
Professor Stanisa Raspopovic, who led the research from the ETH Zurich said: ‘When prosthetics fail to work well, people fall and will suffer severe injuries.
The leg (pictured) has been observed with three people with above-the-knee amputations, who were able to walk stairs 30 percent faster and successfully avoided tripping over unseen obstacles.