New Bionic Limbs Will Help Wounded Amputees Control Their Body Again Themselves

It’s like real life RoboCop! Ok, maybe not really, but the latest prosthetic limbs are pretty darn cool. Researchers have just rolled out a cutting edge bionic leg that can be controlled by your mind.

A report published last Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine describes how a high-tech team of software and biomedical engineers, neuroscientists, surgeons, and prosthetists has designed a prosthetic leg that can bend and flex at the knee, ankle, and even toes with commands from your brain.

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The project was funded by an $8 million grant from the Army, with the hope of helping the roughly 1,200 service personnel who have lost lower limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as up to a million other amputees.

Bravo, scientists. Our soldiers that lose limbs in service to this country deserve to have as much normalcy restored to their lives as possible.

The lead author of the report, Levi J. Hargrove, said that the goal is to “restore full capabilities” to amputees, and that they’re committed to developing the technology for our wounded warriors and others that have lost limbs in accidents.

Guinea pig Zac Vawter, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2009, spent countless hours with his leg wired up, imagining making certain movements. Tiny electrodes learned the signals for different movements from muscle contractions in his thigh, and pattern-recognition software digitized the results to catalog the intended motions.

And what does Vawter think of the new robo-leg? He said, “With this leg, it just flows ... The control system is very intuitive. There isn't anything special I have to do to make it work right." He also said that the increase in speed and agility would be helpful for keeping up with his 5-year-old and 3-year-old sons. Once he can convince them to let him wear the new technology home, that is.

Do you think bionic limbs will increase the quality of life for amputees?


Image via U.S. Department of Defense/Flickr

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