Strategies for neural control of prosthetic limbs: from electrode interfacing to 3D printing

Materials (Basel). 2019 Jun 14;12(12):1927. doi: 10.3390/ma12121927.


Limb amputation is a major cause of disability in our community, for which motorised prosthetic devices offer a return to function and independence. With the commercialisation and increasing availability of advanced motorised prosthetic technologies, there is a consumer need and clinical drive for intuitive user control. In this context, rapid additive fabrication/prototyping capacities and biofabrication protocols embrace a highly-personalised medicine doctrine that marries specific patient biology and anatomy to high-end prosthetic design, manufacture and functionality. Commercially-available prosthetic models utilise surface electrodes that are limited by their disconnect between mind and device. As such, alternative strategies of mind-prosthetic interfacing have been explored to purposefully drive the prosthetic limb. This review investigates mind to machine interfacing strategies, with a focus on the biological challenges of long-term harnessing of the user's cerebral commands to drive actuation/movement in electronic prostheses. It covers the limitations of skin, peripheral nerve and brain interfacing electrodes, and in particular the challenges of minimising the foreign-body response, as well as a new strategy of grafting muscle onto residual peripheral nerves. In conjunction, this review also investigates the applicability of additive tissue engineering at the nerve-electrode boundary, which has led to pioneering work in neural regeneration and bioelectrode development for applications at the neuroprosthetic interface.

Keywords: 3D printing; artificial limbs; bioprinting; myoelectric control; neuroprosthetic interfacing; tissue engineering.

Publication types

  • Review