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New Israeli Technology Could Rewire Damaged Nerves to Restore Touch 

07-13-2021

JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli scientists say they have developed a new "groundbreaking" technology that can rewire damaged nerves to restore a lost sense of touch. 

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have engineered a tiny sensor called a "triboelectric nanogenerator" (TENG) that can be implanted in the nerve of an injured limb and connect it with a healthy nerve. When the limb touches something, the sensor is activated and sends an electrical impulse to the healthy nerve to create the sensation. The sensor doesn't require a complex implantation process or charging device, unlike already existing technology. 

The sensor is specially designed for people who have lost their sense of touch as a result of amputation or injury. 

"It should be understood that this loss of sensation can result from a very wide range of injuries, from minor wounds – like someone chopping a salad and accidentally cutting himself with the knife – to very serious injuries," said biomedical engineer Dr. Ben M. Moaz. "Even if the wound can be healed and the injured nerve can be sutured, in many cases the sense of touch remains damaged. We decided to tackle this challenge together, and find a solution that will restore tactile sensation to those who have lost it.”

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Moaz collaborated with Dr. Amir Arami and a team of other scientists and medical experts to develop the technology and test it on animals. They published their study in the prestigious journal ACS Nano and say the technology will be available for use after they complete clinical trials.

“We tested our device on animal models, and the results were very encouraging,” said Maoz. “Next, we want to test the implant on larger models, and at a later stage implant our sensors in the fingers of people who have lost the ability to sense touch. Restoring this ability can significantly improve people’s functioning and quality of life, and more importantly, protect them from danger. People lacking tactile sensation cannot feel if their finger is being crushed, burned or frozen.”

The scientists say the device is so small, it can't be seen externally and could potentially restore the quality of life to many people. 

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