From the Wires
First Neurally Controlled, Powered Prosthetic Limb Is 2,109 Steps Closer To Realization
By: PR Newswire
Nov. 7, 2012 08:12 PM
IRVINE, Calif., Nov. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Freedom Innovations, LLC, a leading developer of high technology prosthetic medical devices, announced today that research participant Zac Vawter utilized the world's first neurally controlled, powered prosthetic limb to climb 103 floors (2,109 steps) of Chicago's Willis Tower at the SkyRise Chicago fundraiser. In this most grueling test of the technology to date, Vawter demonstrated that this advanced research is quickly on its way to becoming available to lower-limb amputees worldwide.
Originally developed at Vanderbilt University, the Powered Knee & Ankle System's neural controls are the result of research from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Prosthetic developer Freedom Innovations is on track to commercialize the first phase of the technology, the Powered Knee & Ankle System in early 2015. Further development of the neural-controlled system is underway, as it represents the next step required to fully restore lower-limb amputees' complete biological function.
The computerized prosthetic limb Vawter used in the climb incorporates two significant advancements in prosthetic technology. First, as the only system to feature fully-powered knee and ankle prosthetic joints, the prosthetic limb is no longer passive. Motors in the system replace muscle function lost from an amputation. This facilitates power-driven ambulation that also allows an amputee to actively climb stairs and slopes. Second, Vawter benefited from neural control of this powered system where his thoughts helped to direct the software and action of the prosthetic limb via targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR).
TMR is a surgical procedure pioneered at RIC. Brain signals from nerves severed during amputation are rerouted to intact muscles, allowing patients to control their robotic prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action that they want to perform.
Vawter, 31, who lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident three years ago, put the technology on public display for the first time during the annual stair-climbing charity event hosted by RIC. He completed the 103-story climb in just over 52 minutes.
"One of the biggest differences for me is being able to take stairs step-over-step like everyone else," said Vawter. "With my standard prosthesis, I have to take every step with my good foot first and sort of lift or drag the prosthetic leg up. With the bionic leg, it's simple, I take stairs like I used to, and can even take two at a time."
As has been illustrated by this historical climb, it is a convergence of technologies and research collaboration between multiple organizations that is driving this groundbreaking technology forward. Freedom Innovations is working aggressively towards commercialization, so amputees worldwide can benefit from increased prosthetic functionality including improved agility, balance, and fall prevention. This improved level of safety will not only reduce the potential for injury and costly hospital admissions, it is expected to greatly improve the quality of life for those living with limb loss.
About Freedom Innovations
About The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
About the Center for Intelligent Mechatronics, Vanderbilt University
SOURCE Freedom Innovations
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