Bionic Medicine Research - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Research Highlights

The Center for Bionic Medicine (CBM) has many completed and ongoing projects. The focus of our research is to develop technologies and procedures that improve the quality of life for individuals with amputation and other physical disabilities.

    1. Overview of Accomplishments with Targeted Muscle Reinnervation

    2. Ongoing Research -TMR

    3. RIC Arm

    4. NIDILRR Research

    5. Development of Neural Interfaces for Lower Limb Prostheses

    6. Other Completed Research

Overview of Accomplishments with Targeted Muscle Reinnervation

Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR) surgery is now a broadly accepted clinical procedure that has performed on well over 200 individuals in the US and around the world, including armed services personnel injured in recent conflicts. Please view our TMR website for further scientific context.

Completed Support - TMR

Reinnervation in Shoulder Disarticulation Amputees

  • CBM completed a 5-year research project funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). In this study, we performed the first Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR) surgery on a woman, a functional shoulder-disarticulation amputee. We attempted new surgical techniques to further increase the number of myoelectric control sites made available while minimizing cosmetic consequences. Four functional control sites were obtained, significantly improving prosthesis control. High-density EMG recordings indicated that even more neural control information was available for extraction, and pattern recognition techniques were implemented to allow intuitive control of an advanced multifunction prosthesis.
  • As a part of this project, we also performed the first intentional transfer of sensory nerves, termed Targeted Sensory Reinnervation (TSR), to achieve sensation referred to the missing limb, called transfer sensation. As a result, the patient in this study had near-normal sensory thresholds for touch, temperature, electrical stimulation, graded pressure, and point localization, indicating reinnervation of different sensory end organs. In addition, the use of sensory feedback was shown to enhance perceptual ownership of a prosthesis.
  • Clinical Application of Targeted Reinnervation in Transhumeral Amputees:

    Targeted reinnervation has also been performed successfully on transhumeral amputees and is a clinically available option for them. For transhumeral amputees, the surgery involves changing the innervation of two muscles of the upper arm, the short head of the biceps and either the brachialis or the lateral head of the triceps. The original innervation of these target muscles is cut and the median and distal radial nerves are connected. The innervation of the lateral biceps (elbow flexion) by the musculocutaneous nerve and the remaining triceps (elbow extension) by the proximal radial nerve are left intact. Due to the limited number of available muscle sites, the ulnar nerve has not yet been reconnected during targeted reinnervation on transhumeral amputees.

Ongoing Research - TMR

We continue to investigate the procedure in persons with transradial (below-elbow) amputation. We are also furthering investigations of Targeted Sensory Reinnervation. Below, we highlight some of our research to date:

  • We are beginning to research the effect of Targeted Muscle Reinnervation surgery on individuals with transradial (below elbow) amputation, the most common type of major limb amputation. This application could potentially benefit thousands of patients. Targeted reinnervation in a transradial amputee would be a simple surgical procedure to transfer the residual nerves from the intrinsic hand muscles to remaining forearm muscles. This has the promise of giving the amputee intuitive control over the prosthetic wrist and hand, with the potential to control multiple degrees of wrist movement and more complicated grasping patterns.
  • The powerful synergy of TMR and pattern recognition technology enables users to control a motorized elbow, wrist rotator, wrist flexion/extension, and multifunction hands. We are currently quantifying and comparing conventional and pattern recognition control of prostheses, and evaluating the information content of reinnervated muscles following TMR.


The Center for Bionic Medicine currently is developing the smRIC Center for Bionic Medicineartest prosthetic arm ever made. Current motorized prosthetic arms are heavy and can be burdensome to use for the estimated 41,000 people in the United States affected by amputation at or above the wrist.

The RIC Arm is specifically designed to be much smaller and lighter than currently available prostheses. It is designed for the 25th percentile female as opposed to all other arms sized for the 50th percentile male. The arm can be extended for larger people, too. It also has the first wrist with flexion/extension motion as well as rotation, allowing users unprecedented control of their prosthetic arm.

NIDILRR Research

CBM is the recipient of a National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation (NIDILRR)-sponsored RERC award. Our engineering center, TEAMM-RERC, focuses on improving technologies for individuals with a broad range of disabilities affecting manipulation and mobility.

Development of Neural Interfaces for Lower Limb Prostheses

Our goal is to advance the neural control of a research prototype power leg system, which requires daily recalibration, to a clinically viable system that adapts to changes in patients’ EMG signals. At the end of this project we expect to have developed an adaptive neural control system that is ready for home-trials. Learn more at the Neural Engineering for Prosthetics & Orthotics Lab webpage.

Other Completed Research

  • USAMRAA W81XWH-09-2-0020 - The goal of this award was to develop a neural interface for powered lower-limb prostheses for transfemoral and transtibial amputees.

  • USAMRAA W81XWH-11-1-072 -The goal of this award was to design a second iteration of a lightweight myoelectric upper-limb prosthesis, as well as to improve direct skeletal attachment technology via a skin expansion system and to introduce a novel rotation control system using an LC circuit implanted in the residual bone.

  • Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center N66001-12-1-4029 -The goal of this project was to develop an implantable EMG telemetry system based on radio frequency powering technology.

  • National Library of Medicine G13LM 011221 – The goal of this project was to publish a monograph on the targeted reinnervation procedure, which would provide clinical teams worldwide with the background and information essential to successfully perform the procedure.