CHINA — A team of researchers at Wuyi University have developed a bionic finger that can sense and create 3D images of materials, including human tissue, by touch.

The research was reported in the journal, Cell Reports Physical Science.

Their bionic finger can detect structures such as the blood vessels, tissues and bones that exist beneath our skin.

The researchers were inspired by the sensitive tactile perception of human fingers and created the bionic finger using carbon fibers.

As the finger moves across a surface and applies pressure, the fibers compress, providing information about the stiffness or softness of the object.

We were inspired by human fingers, which have the most sensitive tactile perception that we know of,” said senior author Jianyi Luo, a professor at the university.

For example, when we touch our own bodies with our fingers, we can sense not only the texture of our skin, but also the outline of the bone beneath it.”

The sensor data is sent to a computer to create a 3D map. In testing, the bionic finger successfully differentiated between hard and soft materials, including hidden structures.

Biomedical applications were demonstrated by running the bionic finger over a 3D-printed model of human tissue, producing a 3D profile of the structure, including a simulated blood vessel beneath the muscle layer.

The authors note that while previously developed artificial tactile sensors can recognize and discriminate between external shapes, surface textures, and hardness, they are unable to sense subsurface information about materials.

Subsurface information typically requires optical technologies, such as CT scanning, PET scans, ultrasonic tomography, or MRIs, which all have their own limitations.

Additionally, optical profilometry is often limited to transparent materials when measuring surface profile and finish.

When we touch something with our fingers, the skin undergoes mechanical deformation that triggers mechanoreceptors to send electrical impulses to the somatosensory cortex in the brain.

The brain processes these impulses to identify the object’s features, such as its shape, surface texture, and stiffness. This tactile feedback is responsible for our ability to recognize materials.

The researchers hope to further develop the bionic finger’s capacity for omnidirectional detection with different surface materials.

One of the success stories of bionics is the development of the bionic pancreas, which was successfully tested in two five-day trials by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2014.

The bionic pancreas is an automated insulin delivery system that provides a new level of ease to the day-to-day management of type 1 diabetes, helping patients keep tight control over blood glucose levels and prevent complications.

Beta Bionics, a biotechnology company that develops an integrated bionic pancreas system called the iLet has secured over US$137 million in funding.

It has submitted the iLet, a more advanced version of the bionic pancreas, to the US Food and Drug Administration for commercial clearance.

The iLet is a compact device, measuring 15mm in thickness and similar in length and width to a credit card. It can be worn on a belt clip, bra strap, or carried in a pocket, and communicates wirelessly with a Bluetooth-enabled monitor to continuously track a subject’s glucose levels.

Unlike other methods for managing type 1 diabetes, which require patients to measure their glucose levels manually and calculate the correct dose of insulin, the iLet automatically delivers a tailored dose of insulin every five minutes via a thin tube connected to the body.

It uses current and past glucose levels to calculate the dose and can also learn and adapt to changing needs based on the body’s response to past insulin deliveries.

The latest trial was pivotal, and the company hopes to get federal clearance to market the device in the United States soon.

In addition to infusing insulin, the bionic pancreas also automatically delivers another hormone, glucagon, to prevent sugar levels from dropping too low.

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