Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bionic Men

The iWalk BiOM prosthetic ankle enables amputees to walk naturally and effortlessly. Photos courtesy of iWalk ENG alums help advance lifelike prosthetic leg A breakthrough robotics technology is enabling a growing number of amputees to walk naturally and effortlessly. In recent years, carbon fiber technology has made possible the production of lighter, stronger artificial limbs that provide increased mobility to injured soldiers, people with diabetes, and others with missing or impaired lower limbs. But moving about with a carbon fiber prosthetic can be like walking in sand: putting one foot in front of the other takes up to 50 percent more energy than that expended by people with natural limbs. That’s where a new prosthetic ankle, the BiOM by iWalk, Inc., commercially available since September 2011, comes in. Supplying that extra energy through batteries, motors, and springs, the 4.5-pound BiOM replicates the action of the foot, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles to provide powered plantar flexion, or push-off. Among the 60 iWalk employees who are shaping the future of bionic technology at the Bedford, Mass.–based start-up are three College of Engineering mechanical engineering alumni—Weston Smith (ENG’11), Josh Prescott (ENG’11), and Chris Park (ENG’11). They are part of iWalk’s effort to rebuild and restore natural motion from the ground up to potentially millions of affected individuals. Witnessing the transfer of iWalk’s technology to veterans and active-duty soldiers has been the greatest on-the-job reward, says Smith, who started working for the company as a quality engineer in October 2010. “It was neat to send our first commercial shipment of prosthetic ankles to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and be there to see people walk on them for the first time,” he says. Now working as a manufacturing engineer, Smith’s job is to improve the manufacturing process and incorporate design improvements into iWalk’s production line. It’s the job he set his sights on in 2009, when he was a lab technician without engineering credentials at a medical device company. With an undergraduate degree in visual arts and experience as a cabinetmaker and carpenter, he enrolled in ENG’s Late Entry Accelerated Program (LEAP), which permits nontraditional students and working professionals to obtain a graduate degree in engineering, as the ticket to his dream job. “I couldn’t find anything else like it in the country,” Smith recalls. “Having the chance to study engineering after having been on a different path helped me to be really flexible, which is what’s required here. It’s a small enough place that we all do a little bit of everything beyond our core engineering tasks, from writing marketing materials to delivering the product to customers.” Click here for more of the story

Friday, November 2, 2012

Amputee to climb stairs of Chicago skyscraper using thought-controlled bionic leg

By Associated Press, Published: October 31 CHICAGO — Zac Vawter considers himself a test pilot. After losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident, the 31-year-old software engineer signed up to become a research subject, helping to test a trailblazing prosthetic leg that’s controlled by his thoughts. He will put this groundbreaking bionic leg to the ultimate test Sunday when he attempts to climb 103 flights of stairs to the top of Chicago’s Willis Tower, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. If all goes well, he’ll make history with the bionic leg’s public debut. His whirring, robotic leg will respond to electrical impulses from muscles in his hamstring. Vawter will think, “Climb stairs,” and the motors, belts and chains in his leg will synchronize the movements of its ankle and knee. Vawter hopes to make it to the top in an hour, longer than it would’ve taken before his amputation, less time than it would take with his normal prosthetic leg — or, as he calls it, his “dumb” leg. A team of researchers will be cheering him on and noting the smart leg’s performance. When Vawter goes home to Yelm, Wash., where he lives with his wife and two children, the experimental leg will stay behind in Chicago. Researchers will continue to refine its steering. Taking it to the market is still years away. “Somewhere down the road, it will benefit me and I hope it will benefit a lot of other people as well,” Vawter said about the research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Bionic — or thought-controlled — prosthetic arms have been available for a few years, thanks to pioneering work done at the Rehabilitation Institute. With leg amputees outnumbering people who’ve lost arms and hands, the Chicago researchers are focusing more on lower limbs. Safety is important. If a bionic hand fails, a person drops a glass of water. If a bionic leg fails, a person falls down stairs. The Willis Tower climb will be the bionic leg’s first test in the public eye, said lead researcher Levi Hargrove of the institute’s Center for Bionic Medicine. The climb, called “SkyRise Chicago,” is a fundraiser for the institute with about 2,700 people climbing. This is the first time the climb has played a role in the facility’s research. To prepare, Vawter and the scientists have spent hours adjusting the leg’s movements. On one recent day, 11 electrodes placed on the skin of Vawter’s thigh fed data to the bionic leg’s microcomputer. The researchers turned over the “steering” to Vawter. He kicked a soccer ball, walked around the room and climbed stairs. The researchers beamed. Vawter likes the bionic leg. Compared to his regular prosthetic, it’s more responsive and more fluid. As an engineer, he enjoys learning how the leg works. It started with surgery in 2009. When Vawter’s leg was amputated, a surgeon repositioned the residual spaghetti-like nerves that normally would carry signals to the lower leg and sewed them to new spots on his hamstring. That would allow Vawter one day to be able to use a bionic leg, even though the technology was years away. Continue with story by Clicking Here

Paralympic star Whitehead set for marathon across UK

October 30 - Britain's double leg-amputee athlete Richard Whitehead, who took gold in the 200 metre T42 final at the London 2012 Paralympics, plans to run from John O'Groats to Land's End to raise money for cancer charities. The 36-year-old from Nottingham shot to prominence when he claimed a memorable victory in the 200m in the Olympic Stadium in a world record of 24.38sec, adding the Paralympic title to the world title he won last year. But despite his stellar late career as a sprinter, Whitehead is actually predominantly a marathon runner with a best time of 2 hours 42min 52sec over 26.2 miles. He is now aiming to become the first double leg amputee to run from John O'Groats to Land's End not only raise thousands of pounds for cancer charities in memory of his friend, Simon Mellows, who died in 2005 after contracting a secondary cancer, but also to inspire people to take up sport. "I'm a marathon runner by trade and the marathon, as an event, is accessible for anybody to watch," Whitehead told BBC Sport. "It's on an open road and you can just come down and be part of it, so I felt a challenge like John O'Groats to Land's End would engage people up and down the country about what sport's all about, and maybe be an opportunity for them to run a little bit with me. "It's great being on television and in the media but meeting people is something you can't put a value on and that's when you can have that inspiration and positive impact on people's lives."
Richard Whitehead may be a Paralympic gold medal winning sprinter but considers himself to be predominantly a marathon runner The move comes after Whitehead's phenomenal transformation from a marathon runner to a sprinter, which came about after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said he could not race against arm amputees at the London 2012 Paralympics. After losing his appeal against the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Whitehead adapted his training to benefit his sprinting and gained 17 kilograms of muscle. But despite become the dominant force in the 200m T42, he admits he is still hopeful of competing in the marathon at the Rio Paralympics in 2016. "They [the IPC] are starting to put things into place," he said. "For me, it's been a long time coming. "They should look back at that ruling as a missed opportunity for them. "Sport, in some cases, is too political and they were trying to streamline athletics. "Sport is inclusive, not exclusive. "To run the marathon and 200m would be a one-off and reinforce my values that sport is not all about medals. "I'm obviously a strong athlete over 200m and I would like to retain my title in Rio. "The marathon, however, for me, is about opening up people's perceptions about what a person without any legs can actually do, and also overcoming obstacles and opening up opportunities for others. "It's not about being really successful in sport, it's about leaving that legacy." Contact the writer of this story at tom.degun@insidethegames.biz

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wounded Marines Start 'Amputee Outdoors' to Support Their Own

"We remind one another that life isn't over; life is just a little different now and nothing's impossible. You can still do it. You just have to find a new way." By Stephanie Gross Email the author October 15, 2012
Marines Michael Boucher (R) and Tony Mullis (L) are two of the three founders of Amputee Outdoors. Credit Stephanie Gross Best friends and fellow Marines Michael Boucher, Tony Mullis and Zachary Stinson have always had a passion for the outdoors. And the fact that all three are double amputees isn't stopping them from hunting or fishing. It's what brought them together at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and what led them to form an organization to help other wounded warriors live normal lives. Boucher, a Bogart resident, was injured in June 2011 while deployed in Afghanistan. During his recovery, he and the other co-founders of "Amputee Outdoors," had the opportunity to go on outdoor excursions and discover they still can live very fulfilled lives.
Marines Michael Boucher (L) and Tony Mullis (R) show off their new Tank Chair. Credit Stephanie Gross "We loved hunting and fishing prior to injury and we decided we didn't want to let our injuries stop us from being able to get out around the water to fish and hunt and just be active like before we were hurt," he said. So, the three Marines, ages 22-23, began brainstorming ways to give other wounded warriors the chance to explore the outdoors. "We remind one another that life isn't over; life is just a little different now and nothing's impossible. You can still do it. You just have to find a new way,"" he explained. Last week, a Tank Chair was donated to Amputee Outdoors, a gift made possible by the Semper Fi Fund. The chair, and others like it, will enable the organization to take wounded warriors out of the hospitals and into nature. Boucher, who has used a Tank Chair on multiple occasions described it as "amazing." "[Tank Chairs] cruise over rocks, upstairs, downstairs, through water, sand or mud," he said. "There's not really a whole lot that they can't go through." While Amputee Outdoors will give wounded warriors "a better and more normal life, knowing they have No Limits," Boucher says the organization will also serve to educate the public. "Just because we look a whole lot different and we have parts that aren't so real, we're no different," he said. "We still wake up every morning and have the desire to do the things we do just like a full able-bodied person." Amputee Outdoors is currently working on pitching a television series so that more people will learn about its mission. The organization is also in the process of acquiring status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Anyone interested in learning about ways to help is asked to use this contact form. You might also be interested in viewing: 20,000 Cheer While Marine Michael Boucher Honored at Braves Game Video: Wounded Marine Thanks Community for Support Video: A Hero Comes Home for the Holidays Don’t miss any Oconee news. Subscribe to Oconee Patch’s free newsletter, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Related Topics: Amputee Outdoors, Greatest Person, Marines, Michael Boucher, Tank Chair, Tony Mullis, Zachary Stinson, and semper fi fund

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Tube accident victim who GREW leg bone two inches so doctors can finally fit bionic limb after 15 years in world-first op

By Richard Shears and Julian Gavaghan

Last updated at 1:24 PM on 13th February 2012

Comments (0) Share

Marny Cringle couldn't have leg fitted before because stump was too short
Left leg amputated above the knee after falling under an Underground train

A woman who lost a leg when she fell under a London underground train is to receive a bionic limb in a remarkable world-first operation after successfully growing bone.
Marny Cringle 42, of New South Wales, Australia, lost her left leg in the accident in 1996 but because the remaining stump was too short she could not be fitted with a prosthetic one.
She faced the rest of her life on crutches or in a wheelchair -

Help: Marny Cringle, 42, poses on crutches - but in a few months time she will have a bionic limb after doctors were able to grow as before the stump had been too short
The painful procedure works by attaching tiny screws and periodically adjusting them to encourage the bone to stretch and grow by just a fraction of an inch at a time.

More...Twin brothers' devastation after both go blind within WEEKS due to rare genetic condition

Now surgeons want to fit a bionic limb to her femur, allowing muscle and bone to grow around it.
The artificial limb will become an extension of her body - the first time someone will have had a bone stump lengthened and a bionic limb fitted to it.

Until now, many of those who had their legs amputated above the knee could not be fitted with a prosthetic limb because the remaining bone stump was too short.
But thanks to Marny Cringle - who grew her femur two inches through a painful process of having screws fitted and then gradually adjusting them to lengthen the bone - thousands more amputees could now one day walk again.
When she undergoes an operation in April at Macquarie University Hospital (pictured above) in Sydney, Australia, the 42-year-old will be the first person in the world to have a bionic limb fitted after growing bone.
Recent advancements in bionic limbs mean Miss Cringle - and many others like her - could live a relatively normal life with almost complete mobility.

Bone and muscle will grow around the artificial leg, which is powered by batteries and can detect small changes in movement and direction using motion and speed sensors.
Also, Using hydraulics, valves close and lock the knee in place when standing upright.

And, despite being fitted with hi-tech gadgets and lithium batteries, bionic legs, which cost around £50,000, can weigh as little as 2.9lb.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Munjed Al Muderis, who will head the operation to fit the artificial limb, told Sydney's Daily Telegraph that the procedure was 'the future for amputee patients worldwide.'

Thanks to modern surgery and her agreement to put up with painful procedure, Miss Cringle hopes to have the bionic leg attached to her leg stump as soon as April - and then surgeons and scientists will monitor it as tissue grows around the top of it.
'Just to be able to walk with two hands free is something I'm really looking forward to,' she told the paper at her home in Bolwarra, north of Sydney.
'And to be able to cuddle someone without having to have crutches hanging off me - it's those minor things.'

A former Australian wheelchair tennis champion, Miss Cringle added: 'I've beaten the odds with growing the bone as much as it has and so I know it is going to happen now. I've come too far for it not to.'

Miss Cringle was following her dream of overseas travel and working in London when she was hit by the train, her injuries so severe that she was not expected to live.
She had suffered severe head injuries, broken ribs and spinal discs and pierced lungs - in addition to losing her leg which was amputated above the knee when she was rushed to St Thomas' Hospital, London.

An accomplished violin player, she said that music had helped her with her recovery.
In an interview with the Catholic newspaper Aurora five years ago, Miss Cringle said that people had often doubted her capabilities 'but just because my circumstances have changed it doesn't mean I have changed.'

She believed the reason she was still alive was to allow her to continue achieving.
'There must be a good purpose to be here, something left for me to still do. I just haven't found it yet.'

Now she and surgeons hope that she and her new limb will give hope to many others who have suffered similar injuries.
The new generation of bionic limbs are an enormous improvement on old prosthetic ones.
The combination of motion and speed sensors and advanced computing mean they can detect small changes in movement and direction.
Also, Using hydraulics, valves close and lock the knee in place when standing upright.
And despite being fitted with hi-tech gadgets and lithium batteries bionic legs, which cost around £50,000, can weigh as little as 2.9lb.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"The Harder the Goal, the Greater the Glory"

It's the beginning of January, and for runners it means one thing: time for the kickoff to train for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.

If you're thinking it's too cold or you can't go the distance, the guest speaker for the marathon kick-off party Wednesday night is a living example that there are no excuses.

For Sarah Reinertsen, it's never too cold or too windy or too late.

Not having a leg? That's no excuse for her, either.

"I'm on the course, I think often times people see me come by, see my prosthetic leg, and there's this sort of flash and glimmer and it's like, 'Wow, if she's out there suffering on that thing, I'm going to make it today, too.'"

She explains, "I lost my leg when I was seven years old. I had tissue disease as a child so they amputated above the knee when I was just a kid."

For the first eleven years of her life, Reinertsen didn't run because she thought she couldn't.

Then she met a woman running with a prosthetic leg, and her world changed.

"That really changed for me, having a role model and opening up the possibility," she said.

She went from learning to walk with a wooden foot to running with a carbon fiber leg designed to replicate the fastest animal on land.

"The engineer, designer was looking at videos of the cheetah and looked at the kickback of the hind leg, and that was his inspiration to make a better prosthetic running foot for a human."

It unleashed her inner runner.

At 13, she broke the 100-meter world record for female above-the-knee amputees.

She ran the Great Wall Marathon in China.

And in 2005, she became the first woman with a prosthetic leg to finish the Ironman World Championships. It took her 15 hours to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and run another 26.2.

"The harder the goal, the greater the glory," Reinertsen says. "Certainly the feeling of crossing the finish line was a feeling I'll never get back -- unless I do it again."

Those accomplishments now make her a role model for others.

"One of the things that I love is that every weekend in almost every state in this country, you can sign up for a race, you can be a weekend warrior, you can feel like a kid again, get out there and get active."

Violinist Sophia Hummell keeps a steady hand

Make a list of the requirements for playing the violin, and the first few items are pretty obvious. Love of music, a good ear, dedication - check, check, check.

What about two good arms? Now that's where you want to be careful about jumping to conclusions.

Sophia Hummell confounds any glib assumptions about what is and isn't possible on the musical front. The spirited 18-year-old San Francisco native was born without a full right arm, but she's been playing the violin since the fourth grade.

She makes it look easy, too. The key is a specially designed prosthetic - what Hummell calls her "violin arm" - that attaches to the short stub of her arm with a suction device, while a mechanical grip on the other end is attached to the bow.

The result is an apparatus that has allowed Hummell to keep pace with her fiddling peers. She plays in string quartets and in the chamber orchestra of the Villa Sinfonia Foundation, a nonprofit run by violinists Lynn and Roy Oakley. With the orchestra, she's performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and played the national anthem for a Giants game, and just last month she was the soloist in one movement of a Vivaldi concerto at the orchestra's annual concert.

To spend any time with Hummell is to encounter a young woman who seems to simply breeze past whatever obstacles life may throw her way. Though she has a variety of prosthetic arms for different activities, she says she feels most at home without any of them - using one hand, along with the occasional teeth and toes, to negotiate the world.
Click here for more of the story