Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 Team Delivers First DARPA Limb Prototype - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Published on May 01, 2007

Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 Team Delivers First DARPA Limb Prototype

Successful Clinical Trials Completed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Jesse Sullivan testing the Prototype 1 Arm at the RIC Neural Engineering Center for Bionic Medicine

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), the nation's leading physical medicine and rehabilitation hospital, announced today successful completion of the prototype 1 prosthetic arm (Proto 1), the next generation prosthetic arm built for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program.

The Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 (RP 2009) team developed the first fully integrated prosthetic arm that can be controlled naturally, provide sensory feedback and allows for eight degrees of freedom—a level of control far beyond the current state of the art for prosthetic limbs. Through RICs Neural Engineering Center for Bionic Medicine, several researchers completed limb system includes a virtual environment used for patient training, clinical configuration and to record limb movements and control signals during clinical investigations.

Proto 1 was fitted for clinical evaluations by a team of partners at RIC in January and February. RIC patient Jesse Sullivan demonstrated 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 advanced degree of natural control and integrated sensory feedback demonstrated with Proto 1 are enabled by 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.

"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," said Todd Kuiken MD, PhD, 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."

Through TMR technique, nerves were transferred from the shoulder to the pectoral area of the Sullivan's chest. Through electrodes on those reinnervated sites, Sullivan is able to naturally control the prosthetic. This procedure provides for a more intuitive use of a prosthetic arm and allows for the natural sensation of grip strength and touch.

Additionally, RIC research scientist Richard F. ff. Weir, PhD, also made significant contributions to the Proto 1 arm including the mechanical design of the shoulder, humeral rotator and wrist flexion units used in the Proto 1 arm. He collaborated extensively with Otto Bock and JHU APL in the design, development and integration of these components into the arm.

In addition, Dr. Weir's Injectable MyoElectric Sensor (IMES) devices will be used as part of the control for the next prototype arm. The IMES are very small injectable or surgically implantable sensors that are used to measure muscle activity at the source, providing greater signal isolation and therefore better performance, verses surface electrodes on the skin that were used during testing of the first prototype. Dr. Weir has been working on developing the IMES devices over the past four years.

"It has been a great honor to be a part of this cutting-edge prosthesis design initiative and to have been able to collaborate with such a skilled team," said Richard F. ff. Weir, PhD, research scientist at RIC. "I am looking forward to integrating our IMES devices into the control of these advanced arm systems. I believe they will greatly enhance the functional efficiency and use of these advanced systems."

The RP 2009 team, under the project leadership of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), is already hard at work on a second prototype (Proto 2), expected to be unveiled in late summer. It will have more than 25 degrees of freedom and the strength and speed of movement approaching the capabilities of the human limb, combined with more than 80 individual sensory elements for feedback of touch, temperature, and limb position. Dr. Weir's team in collaboration with Otto Bock is developing one of the advanced hand architectures for use with the Proto 2 arm system.

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.

Key Members of Proto 1 Development Include:

About The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is dedicated to helping people with all levels and types of physical disabilities live a fulfilling life. U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIC the "#1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America" every year since 1991. RIC operates a flagship hospital in Chicago as well as a network of DayRehabCenters and outpatient centers located throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. It also maintains strategic alliances with other healthcare providers throughout the state of Illinois and north central Indiana.

This news was recently featured on New York Times online.  Follow this link to view PDF file of the New York Times article

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