Development of a bionic interface for high-precision controlling of robotic arms and legs accomplished by Professor Sanghoon Lee’s team at DGIST! Expected to improve quality of life for amputee patients

- An enhanced control technology for robotic upper and lower limbs has been developed through the development of a new type of hybrid bionic nerve interface that integrates a regenerative peripheral nerve interface (RPNI) and a peripheral nerve interface (PNI) - The technology is expected to play an important role in the neuroprosthetic rehabilitation of amputee patients and the peripheral nerve interface - The study’s results have been published in the esteemed academic journal “Advanced Science”

□ Professor Sanghoon Lee’s research team in the Department of Robotics and Mechatronics Engineering at DGIST (President Kuk Yang) has developed a hybrid bionic nerve interface, a novel form of bionic interface technology that integrates a biological interface and a peripheral neural interface. The team expects the technology to contribute significantly to improving the neuroprosthetic rehabilitation and quality of life of amputee patients in the future.


□ With the recent rise of the onset of chronic adult diseases, such as diabetes, the number of patients with limb amputations caused by not only accidents but also diabetes is increasing rapidly. The problem with limb amputation, a permanent disability, is that, along with the physical disability, a psychological disorder can be brought about due to the loss of a body part. To solve this problem, bionic limb technologies that replace lost arms and legs with robotic limbs are being developed. To execute the functions of human limbs flawlessly, the user and the robotic arms and legs must become cohesive through bidirectional communication, and this first requires the development of a stable and high-performing core bionic interface technology.


□ To that end, Professor Sanghoon Lee’s team at DGIST has developed a hybrid bionic nerve interface by integrating a regenerative peripheral nerve interface (RPNI), a biological interface that is formed through physical surgeries, and a peripheral nerve interface (PNI), an existing engineered interface. The interface that the research team developed mimics a buckle strap[1] and uses a shape memory polymer (SMP)[2] to allow easy and quick implantation on a severed nerve, and it enables simultaneous contact with the muscle and nerve after the formation of the RPNI.


□ To verify the research findings, the research team formed a hybrid bionic nerve interface in the bodies of rabbits and conducted functionality evaluations of the interface for bidirectional nerve stimulation and recording. Consequently, the team succeeded in acquiring high-quality nerve and muscle recordings for long-term (20 weeks) implantation and proved that the interface can be used for long-term implantation of up to 29 weeks.


□ Furthermore, the robotic leg’s plantar flexion movement was simulated using nerve signals and muscle signals in rabbits simultaneously, and accuracy enhancement confirmed that a more precise bionic limb control is possible.


□ “The results of this research are incredibly meaningful in that they demonstrated the possibility of integrating and applying RPNIs, which have already been validated in clinical trials and are being used in the field of medicine, with PNIs, which aim to establish seamless bidirectional communication with peripheral nerves,” stated Professor Sanghoon Lee from DGIST. “We expect the research to show the possibility that bionic limbs similar to actual arms and legs can be actualized through peripheral nerves in the future.”


□ This research was funded by the Korea Medical Device Development Fund’s “Bionic Signal Detection for Intuitive Control of Robotic Limbs Project” and was carried out with Asan Medical Center’s Plastic Surgery Team. The research results were published in October in “Advanced Science (JCR IF 15.1, Top 6.9% in the field),” an esteemed academic journal in the field of materials science and interdisciplinary research.

 corresponding author E-mail address : [email protected]

[1] Buckle strap: A shoelace-like string or support that is used to fasten an object put on a human body

[2] Shape memory polymer (SMP): A type of material whose properties allow an object, when made to take a certain shape under certain conditions, to return to its original shape if the conditions (temperature, light, pH, humidity, etc.) identical to the original state are provided, even if its shape may have changed due to external stimuli

Published: 03 Nov 2023

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