Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 Team Delivers First DARPA Limb Prototype
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Date posted: 16/05/2007
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An international team led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in the US, has developed a prototype of the first fully integrated prosthetic arm that can be controlled naturally, including the provision of sensory feedback and allows for eight degrees of freedom. This is an order of magnitude beyond previous efforts, including the haptic arm of Claudia Mitchell.
Proto 1, developed for the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Revolutionising Prosthetics Program, is a complete limb system that also includes a virtual environment used for patient training, clinical configuration, and to record limb movements and control signals during clinical investigations.
The DARPA prosthetics program is an ambitious effort to provide the most advanced medical and rehabilitative technologies for military personnel injured in the line of duty.
Over the last year, the APL-led Revolutionising Prosthetics 2009 team has worked to develop a prosthetic arm that will restore significant function and sensory perception of the natural limb. Proto 1 and its virtual environment system were delivered to DARPA ahead of schedule, and Proto 1 was fitted for clinical evaluations conducted by team partners at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) in January and February.
"This progress represents the first major step in a very challenging program that spans four years and involves more than 30 partners, including government agencies, universities, and private firms from the United States, Europe, and Canada," says APL's Stuart Harshbarger, who leads the program.
"The development of this first prototype within the first year of this program is a remarkable accomplishment by a highly talented and motivated team and serves as validation that we will be able to implement DARPA's vision to provide, by 2009, a mechanical arm that closely mimics the properties and sensory perception of a biological limb."
The new arm, with it's camoflauge sheath.
The full eight degrees of freedom demonstrated are a result of Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR), a technique pioneered by Dr. Todd Kuiken at RIC that involves the transfer of residual nerves from an amputated limb to unused muscle regions in appropriate proximity to the injury. This is a slight enhancement of the haptic prosthetic of Claudia Mitchell which used the same technique with four nerves in her chest.
During clinical evaluation of the limb at RIC, Jesse Sullivan, a patient of Dr. Kuiken, demon-strated substantial improvements in functional testing, such as the ability to reposition his thumb for different grips, remove a credit card from a pocket, stack cups while controlling his grip force using sensory feedback verses vision, and to walk using the free swing mode of the limb for a more natural gait.
The limb system also includes a natural-looking artificial covering that was created using photographs of the patient's native limb taken before the accident.
"The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago continues to advance this applied research and bring the application of the Targeted Reinnervation technique to the forefront to benefit our nation's service men and women," says Dr. Kuiken, the director of the Neural Engineering Center for Bionic Medicine at RIC. "The results we are achieving in this highly collaborative project are very exciting and I am confident that these discoveries will bring more natural control of prostheses, better artificial limbs and make a difference in the lives of amputees worldwide."
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