Three men who suffered nerve damage in car or climbing accidents have new mind-controlled bionic hands after volunteering for what researchers call "bionic reconstruction." The Austrian men, whose hands were paralyzed after injuries to a network of nerves called the brachial plexus, had leg muscles transplanted into their arms to strengthen the signal from the remaining nerves and spent months learning how to control a virtual hand with their minds before their hands were amputated and replaced with bionic ones, reports Gizmodo. After the transplant, the men were once again able to do things like "picking up a ball, pouring water from a jug, using a key, cutting food with a knife, or using two hands to undo buttons," the researchers write in the Lancet.
The researchers say the same procedure could be carried out in centers with similar resources. "I was impressed and first struck with the surgical innovation," a researcher at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center tells the New Scientist. "There's something very personal about having a hand; most people will go to great lengths to recover one, even if it's not very functional." He says choosing amputation has the advantages of letting surgeons plan just where to cut so the prosthesis can be perfectly grafted to the skeleton. One thing the new bionic hands can't do very well is feel things, but other researchers are working on that.