Prosethetics have existed for a long, long time. For proof, look no further than the example of a prosthetic toe that was found in an ancient Egyptian burial, which bore signs that it had seen significant use. With that said, modern prosthetics are much more advanced than their predecessors, as shown by the existence of prosthetic limbs that are now capable of being moved by the user’s thoughts. However, it is important to note that new advancements are being made on a constant basis, meaning that prosthetics are becoming more and more capable all the time. One excellent example is the concept of electronic skin, which promises to make modern prosthetics even more useful for interested individuals.
Electronic Skin Is the Latest Leap in Prosthetics
In short, a research team at John Hopkins University has come up with electronic skin, which is intended to provide the user of a prosthetic limb with increased feedback. As a result, someone using a prosthetic that has electronic skin will be able to feel not just pain but also other sensations, which is something that was missing from prosthetic limbs up until this point in time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the electronic skin is based on human skin. In short, the researchers noted that human skin has receptors that pick up on stimuli before sending that information on to the rest of the nervous system, thus resulting in pain as well as other sensations. As a result, they fashioned their electronic skin using both fabric and rubber before including sensors in it, thus enabling the finished product to feel the curvature of surfaces as well as the sharpness of surfaces. Combined, these enable the electronic skin to send a great deal of information to the user’s nervous system via the nerves in their limbs, which is possible because of wires that have been set up for that precise purpose. To check that the whole system performed as intended, the researchers even checked the brain signals of the users while the electronic skin was in use, which suggested that everything was as it should be.
For the time being, the electronic skin is still limited. It can produce pain as well as some other sensations, but it is far from the point of providing the full range of possibilities that come with a flesh and blood limb. However, there is no reason that the current setup can’t work in that regard, meaning that with sufficient time, effort, and other resources, it is possible that prosthetic limbs covered in electronic skins will enable their users to feel once more. Something that would provide them with a remarkable range of benefits.
Why Is Pain So Important for Humans?
On a final note, some people might be wondering why feeling pain is so important. If so, they need to remember that pain is our body’s method for telling us that something is wrong so that we can take corrective action. For example, when we feel pain because our hand is touching a hot stove, that tells us to remove our hand as soon as possible. Likewise, when we feel pain because our eyes at starting at the sun, that tells us to look somewhere else as soon as possible. Due to this, a lack of pain is a serious problem because it removes a critical source of information about how we are interacting with our surroundings.
For proof, look no further than the cases of people who are born without a sense of pain, which can seem like horror stories. One excellent example is how said individuals sometimes bite off the tips of their tongues because they can’t feel the pain that they should feel when that happens. Another excellent example is how said individual sometimes sustain serious infections in their eyes because they can’t tell when foreign objects are lodged in them. Based on this, it is clear that human well-being is reliant to an enormous extent on our sense of pain, though it can be rather inconvenient at times.
With that said, preventing catastrophic damage to prosthetics isn’t as pressing as preventing catastrophic damage to flesh-and-blood limbs. However, it is nonetheless crucial, meaning that this electronic skin is a huge leap in the field of prosthetics. This is particularly true because pain is no more than one of its potential uses, which are wide-ranging to say the least.