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'Audacious science'

National Geographic showcases the work of a Case biomedical engineer.

Known for its coverage of the wonders of the world, National Geographic visited campus recently to view the work of a biomedical engineering team that is changing lives with smart prosthetics. 

The cover story in the June issue, The Audacious Science Pushing the Boundaries of Touch, features the work of Professor Dustin Tyler, PhD ’99, whose team is using neural networks and electrical pulses to restore a sense of touch in people who have lost limbs or been paralyzed. 

Readers meet Brandon Prestwood, a North Carolina man who lost his hand and left forearm in an industrial conveyor belt. Preston had some sensation restored with Tyler’s experimental prosthetics, an experience he emotionally describes as helping him to “feel whole” again. 

As director of CWRU’s Human Fusions Institute, Tyler is leading Case’s efforts to recreate human sensations. He was 

profiled in the Fall 2021 edition of Case Alumnus in a story titled “Uniting man and machine.” The National Geographic article lends further insight into why his successes are so impressive: 

“Because it’s damnably, wondrously complicated, this critical interplay of skin, nerves, and brain: to understand, to measure, and to re-create in a way that feels … human. Brandon Prestwood is a case in point. Inside the Sensory Restoration Lab, as the Case Western Reserve researchers ran him through tests, there were encouraging developments; when Prestwood made the prosthetic hand close around a foam block, for example, he felt a pressure against the foam. A connection. A tingling that seemed to be coming from fingers he no longer possessed.” 

Tyler described an engineering challenge that fascinates him as much as anyone. 

“The system we’re working with” — the interplay of receptors, nerves, and brain, he means — “is always taking information in, filing it, associating it, connecting it, and creating our us,” he told the magazine. “There is no beginning and end to it. We’re trying to tap into that.” 

The National Geographic article, which requires a subscription, can be accessed at 

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