The SOMA project starts

The SOMA project, led by Prof. Loredana Zollo, head of the Unit of Advanced Robotics and Human-Centered Technologies (CREO Lab), and funded European Commission within the H2020-FETOPEN-2018-2020 programme (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/899822), gets into the thick of things. A highly challenging study in the field of upper limb neuroprostheses: SOMA aims at developing novel low-invasive bidirectional interface based on ultrasound probes and algorithms enabling the decoding of muscular activity and the sensing of close-to-natural somatic sensations.

 

The first meeting between Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma (UCBM) and the six partners involved in the SOMA project took place on October 28th. An international network of partners collaborates to the project: Fraunhofer-Institut für Biomedizinische Technik will develop the ultrasound (US) probes, University College of London will develop the miniaturized electronics, Imperial College London will investigate the myoelectric control based on US recording of the prosthesis, Università di Napoli “Federico II” will develop an in vitro model of the muscles and of the somatosensory system for the experimental validation of the US interfaces, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona will perform tests of biocompatibility and functionality on animal model, and Össur, a world leader company in the development of prostheses, will contribute to the development of the new SOMA prosthesis. The team of partners is coordinated by UCBM, who will also develop the instrumented hand prosthesis, the algorithms for encoding somatic sensations and the techniques for stimulating the PNS through ultrasound probes. CREO Lab, in collaboration with the Clinical Units of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery, Neurology, neurophysiology, Neurobiology, and Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, will lead the final validation on amputee patients.

 

The virtual meeting defined the first actions to be taken to achieve the ambitious objectives of the project: the prostheses will be able to feel and route back to the amputee tactile and thermal sensations, and also pain. To enable such sensory and motor control of upper limb prostheses, the researchers plan to develop an-vitro model of the innervated skin and muscles. The study of the spatial-temporal relationships between skin stimuli and neural signals will help scientists deliver ultrasound stimulation to the PNS. To this purpose, SOMA will take advantage of the most advanced technology in the field of tissue engineering and neurocomputational modeling, integrated in a synergistic way with the most advanced technologies, hardware and software, in the field of neuroprostheses and implantable devices.