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Pitt, UPMC’s mind-controlled robotic arm needs your vote to be named ‘best innovation in science and medicine’

MJ Slaby/ The Incline

March 13th 2017

Remember when former President Barack Obama was in Pittsburgh and shook hands and fist-bumped with Nathan Copeland — a man with quadriplegia who uses his mind to control a robotic arm?

Thanks to researchers at Pitt and UPMC, Copeland regained the sense of touch through the mind-controlled robotic arm and chips implanted in his brain.

Now, that same mind-controlled robotic arm is in an NCAA-style bracket by STAT, a national health, medicine and science publication, which aims to name the “best innovation in science and medicine.” The winner, along with the Editor’s Choice, will both be featured in the publication.

Last week, the robotic arm advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen” and is now up against a 3-D printed “hyperelastic bone” from Northwestern University. In the first round, the arm faced UCLA’s “minimally invasive ultrasound” for brain injuries.

Voting in this round ends Thursday. (You can vote here.)

To qualify for the contest, entries had to come from an accredited university or college in the U.S. and have a paper published in a peer-review in the last year, said Arvind Suresh, a science writer for UPMC and Pitt Health Sciences, who entered the robotic arm in the contest. Though this research has been happening for years, he said, a paper about Copeland’s story was recently in “Science Translational Medicine” journal.

Plus, Suresh said it didn’t hurt that the robotic arm made national news when Copeland got to shake hands and fist bump with Obama. The then-president even mentioned Copeland in his Frontiers Conference speech:

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