Devon

'Handroid' breakthrough for injured marine Dominic Lovett

Prof Roland Burns with Dominic Lovett
Image caption Professor Roland Burns tests the hand with Dominic Lovett

A paralysed former Royal Marine has lifted an object with his hand for the first time in seven years thanks to technology developed in Plymouth.

Dominic Lovett, 27, who was partially paralysed in an accident, has been testing a mechanical hand that uses neck muscles to move the fingers.

The so-called "handroid" was developed by Plymouth firm Advanced Control Research (ACR).

ACR is now working on a powered elbow to help him with lifting objects.

Mr Lovett, who has been unable to grip objects since the accident, said the hand had "surpassed my expectations".

Mr Lovett, who was based in Stonehouse in Plymouth, became partially paralysed after jumping headfirst into a snowdrift while celebrating with marine colleagues during training in Norway in 2008.

But the snow was only 1m (3ft) deep and he broke his spinal cord.

Image caption Dominic Lovett has been unable to use any of his limbs since the accident in 2008
Image caption The mechanical hand was specially designed to fit him
Image caption Electrical signals from neck muscles are sent to the hand

He has been working with Prof Roland Burns of ACR on developing the skeleton-type system that fits over over his left hand.


How does the "handroid" work?

When a muscle in the human body contracts, it generates a small electrical signal.

The signal can be detected by surface sensors and is used to control the hand.


Mr Lovett said: "It's hard to put into words the empowerment of being able to do it yourself rather than relying on someone else.

"They have come up trumps, so I am very thankful to Professor Burns."

Prof Burns said: "We're delighted the system is working.

"We've scoured the world and as far as we're aware there is no-one else working in this area."

No conventional treatment for Mr Lovett was available on the NHS so much of the £79,000 cost of developing the hand has come from friends and charities including the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

Mr Lovett is now living in Birmingham where he is training to be a counsellor for other injured service people.

Inside Out South West is broadcast on BBC One on Monday, 2 February at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for 30 days thereafter.

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