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Video: Turning Hope Into Reality - VA Research to Restore Veterans' Abilities

WASHINGTON, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- VA Research is dedicated to restoring injured Veterans to their greatest possible functional capacity in their families, communities, and work places. For those who lost limbs from combat traumas or because of complications such as diabetes, VA researchers are designing and building lighter, more lifelike prostheses using leading-edge technologies such as robotics, tissue engineering, and nanotechnology, and are studying how to best match available prosthetic components to the needs of amputees.

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An example of VA's pioneering research in the field of prosthetics: VA is launching a three-year study of an artificial arm that allows those who have lost their limb to perform tasks such as picking up a key, holding a pencil, or using a power drill. The study will allow engineers to refine the prototype of the artificial arm, which was developed through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), before it is commercialized and made available through the VA health care system.

"The advanced prosthetic arm is a high-tech example of how VA researchers are continually modernizing the materials and design of artificial limbs to meet Veterans' lifestyle and medical needs," says Joel Kupersmith, M.D., VA's Chief Research and Development Officer.

The impending three-year "optimization study" of the artificial arm is the first large-scale clinical trial to play an integral part in the final design and development of a prosthetic device, says Michael Selzer, M.D., VA's Director of Rehabilitation Research and Development. At the end of the two-year effort, Selzer says, "The arm will have been optimized to the point where it can be manufactured and made available to our Veterans."

Frederick Downs Jr., director of VA's Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service who lost his left arm during combat in Vietnam, says he was "brought to tears" recently when the DEKA arm allowed him to smoothly bring a water bottle to his mouth and drink.

DARPA has undertaken the monumental task of fulfilling our pact to our Soldiers by embarking on an effort to provide fully integrated limb replacements that enable victims of upper body limb loss to perform arm and hand tasks with the strength and dexterity of the natural limb."

A different kind of prosthesis helped Luke Cassidy, a Veteran who lost his left foot and right toe in Operation Iraqi Freedom, to maintain his active lifestyle and a normal relationship with his young children. "I felt that I wasn't going to be able to function and be able to do 'dad' things with them." With a prosthesis matched to his needs, the Veteran can now coach softball and his mindset has changed, he says, to "Okay, I can do this."

But VA prosthetics research doesn't stop at state-of-the-art limbs. Prosthetics also include wigs, eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, GPS devices to help individuals with brain injuries to become mobile, and adaptive equipment for cars and homes -- "everything that's necessary to help Veterans regain their mobility and independence," sums up VA's Downs.

Visit VA's Research and Development site at

For information about the Department of Veterans Affairs, please visit

For updates on the work of VA Research, please visit

For a program overview of the VA Research program, go to

SOURCE Department of Veterans Affairs
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