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New 'bionic' leg gives amputees a natural gait
Date:8/18/2011

A new lower-limb prosthetic developed at Vanderbilt University allows amputees to walk without the leg-dragging gait characteristic of conventional artificial legs.

The device uses the latest advances in computer, sensor, electric motor and battery technology to give it bionic capabilities: It is the first prosthetic with powered knee and ankle joints that operate in unison. It comes equipped with sensors that monitor its user's motion. It has microprocessors programmed to use this data to predict what the person is trying to do and operate the device in ways that facilitate these movements.

"When its working, it's totally different from my current prosthetic," said Craig Hutto, the 23-year-old amputee who has been testing the leg for several years. "A passive leg is always a step behind me. The Vanderbilt leg is only a split-second behind."

The bionic leg is the result of a seven-year research effort at the Vanderbilt Center for Intelligent Mechatronics, directed by Michael Goldfarb, the H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering. The project was initially funded by a seed grant from the National Science Foundation, followed by a development grant from the National Institutes of Health. Key aspects of the design have been patented by the university, which has granted exclusive rights to develop the prosthesis to Freedom Innovations, a leading developer and manufacturer of lower limb prosthetic devices.

"With out latest model, we have validated our hypothesis that the right technology was available to make a lower-limb prosthetic with powered knee and ankle joints," said Goldfarb. "Our device illustrates the progress we are making at integrating man and machine."

The Vanderbilt prosthesis is designed for daily life. It makes it substantially easier for an amputee to walk, sit, stand, and go up and down stairs and ramps. Studies have shown that users equipped with the device naturally walk 25 percent faster on level surfaces
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Contact: David Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert  

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