Bionic arm developed at Cleveland Clinic gives amputees ability to feel once again

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Cleveland Clinic has developed one of the only bionic arms in the world that gives patients the sensation of feeling in their fingertips again.

Claudia Mitchell, a U.S. Marine veteran, is one of the only people in the world to receive the bionic arm.

A motorcycle accident in 2004 caused her to lose her left arm at the shoulder.

"I struggled a lot after my accident," said Mitchell. "I was really frustrated because my amputation is up to my shoulder. It was very difficult to find a shoulder that would work for somebody."

Doctors say when you lose a limb, you lose more the the ability to move.

"You lose the ability to feel and engage with people because we are very touch orientated," said Dr. Paul Marasco of the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute.

Mitchell says she has that ability back.

"In the fingers, they put sensors, and then over my chest, where I would feel my pinky, or where I would feel my thumb - they call them taceors," described Mitchell.

Doctors basically moved nerves from Claudia's amputation site to her chest muscles and skin. Small robots sense touch from the fingers of the prosthetic hand and transfer it to the rewired nerves in the skin on Claudia's chest.

"It makes it feel more like it's part of you," described Mitchell.

Claudia can now independently do things like apply mascara and open and close something like a makeup bag. She is able to adjust how tightly she is holding objects, something many of us take for granted.

"I never would hold a banana with my prosthesis before because I could never could tell how tightly I was gripping it," added Mitchell.

Having a feeling sensation in her prosthesis has changed that.

Claudia will travel back to the Cleveland Clinic to give more feedback to researchers on her arm in June.

"For the next 24-year-old girl that it happens to, maybe it will be a little bit better for her," added Mitchell.

The bionic arm is in the testing stages right now.

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