New Prosthetics That Connect Right to the Bone Let Amputees "Feel" Again

Despite the many exciting advance in prosthetics, the vast majority of people missing a leg are walking around with what is basically a peg leg, a stick attached to the residual limb. But there's a new way, a more cyborg-like solution. Researchers in London have created a prosthetic leg that attaches directly to the bone.

The so-called Itap (intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthesis) involves attaching a metal implant directly to the bone at the end of the residual limb. The metal implant then pokes through the skin and attaches to the prosthetic leg, giving them a direct connection between their body and the prosthesis. That means that the person with the missing limb not only can avoid the irritation caused by the traditional peg leg prosthetics. But they can also feel what that leg is doing, since the new set up provides much better tactile feedback. At the cost of never being able to take it off, of course.

"Just knowing where my foot is, my ability to know where it is improved dramatically because you can feel it through the bone," says Mark O'Leary, one of 20 patients who is participating in a clinical trial of the new technology. A textured road crossing, I can feel that. You essentially had no sensation with a socket and with Itap you can feel everything." He added, "It's like they've given me my leg back."

As Popular Science points out, one of the coolest aspects of the technology is how it was inspired by deer antlers. To avoid the body rejecting the metal implant, scientists designed it to be porous the way a deer's antlers are where they connect to the skull. These pores allow the soft tissue to blend in with harder material in a more natural fashion.

Now, just because it works, doesn't mean that Itap will take over. More research needs to be done, and there could be some regulatory hurdles for implementation in the United States. But for now, walking just got a lot easier for a lucky few. [The Guardian via PopSci]

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