An implantable electrode from Cambridge, Mass.-based Draper Laboratories is designed to provide prosthetic limb users a more intuitive, controlled experience with their prosthetic and an improved interaction with the world around them. The device differs from other neural implants in that it wraps around as well as directly interacts with nerves.

HAPTIX satellite shown on a test station.  Image source: Draper LaboratoriesHAPTIX satellite shown on a test station. Image source: Draper LaboratoriesThe Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) system, developed with funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, delivers electrical signals to nerves in the forearm, creating an artificial sensory feedback loop. The company says the design produces more precise neural stimulation and a more real sense of touch for amputees.

Phase I animal tests conducted by University of Texas Southwestern researchers demonstrated the wireless electronics package of HAPTIX could work as an implant by achieving a high bandwidth communication capability of about 20 megabits per second. This means that the hub and satellite communications system is compatible with and can relay large amounts of data from the customized neural interface efficiently and rapidly, the company says.

Phase II research will focus on developing scalable wireless implants and miniaturizing the satellite to about the size of an aspirin for preclinical testing planned for 2017. This milestone will be the first time a Draper neural interface is implanted in humans. Draper says that its team and collaborators will be able to implant the electronics as close to the neural interface as possible, thereby optimizing functionality and minimizing signal noise while meeting U.S. Food & Drug Administration requirements for safety.

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