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Kuo and Collins's prosthetic device will enable amputees to waste less energy during normal locomotion  (Source: University of Michigan)

A visual explanation of the process of energy conservation and return shows how the UofM foot and ankle replacement device works.  (Source: University of Michigan)
Science is catching up to nature, helping people return to normal lives.

While modern limb prostheses, especially of the leg and foot, have helped many injured people return to normal lives, science has still not caught up to the biological workhorse that the human ankle represents. A paper by a professor and former undergraduate at the University of Michigan's departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering titled "Recycling Energy to Restore Impaired Ankle Function during Human Walking" is showing how science is catching up.

Prostheses indeed return people to their normal lives, but for many, it's still with impaired functions. There are of course purpose-built prostheses for athletics, but for the sole purpose of normal human walking, the replacements simply fall short in performance. The UofM paper cites research that concludes that 23% of walking energy is wasted by a standard foot prosthetic with every step. While all prostheses return some of the lost energy from the foot contacting the ground, they don't usually give the recipient much choice in when or how that energy is returned. Expensive battery-operated units try to mimic the ankle's push-off, but they require bulky batteries for use.

The goal of Art Kuo and Steve Collins's device is to return as much of the wasted energy as possible at the proper moment to simulate a real ankle. "For amputees, what they experience when they're trying to walk normally is what I would experience if I were carrying an extra 30 pounds," explains Kuo, the UofM professor mentioned previously. Returning the energy properly lessens this load.

Using an interim device, studies showed that between a regular prosthetic foot's energy waste and their mechanical creation, energy waste was cut nearly in half, to 14%. This is due to the replacement's clever use of a microcontroller and energy capturing systems. The microcontroller tells the unit when to release the stored energy, better mimicking a natural foot step. The unit does still require a battery, but since it uses less than one watt of energy a small portable battery is more than enough to help power the system.

"We know there's an energy penalty in using an artificial foot," says Kuo. "We're almost cutting that penalty in half."

Testing has begun with the new artificial foot at the Seattle Veteran's Affair Medical Center while commercial development has been undertaken by an Ann Arbor-based company.

The paper has been published today in the journal 
PLoS ONE.

Steve Collins is now an associate research fellow at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.



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All I could think about...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 2/17/2010 9:22:00 AM , Rating: 2
All I could think about when reading this article was:

We can build him better, stronger, faster.... While hearing the theme song to the bionic man playing in my head. It will not be long before we have a real life Steve Austin.

Glad to see the advances.




RE: All I could think about...
By Macuser89 on 2/17/2010 9:32:58 AM , Rating: 5
All I can think about is why Sarah Conner allowed them to make this.


By Seemonkeyscanfly on 2/17/2010 9:41:08 AM , Rating: 1
"Do not fear Skynet. It's a good thing..." a quote from Martha Stewart that made Sarah Conner feel safe about the build. Then the two went off to talk about potpourri and Artificial Intelligence going together and complement each other so well.


RE: All I could think about...
By Drag0nFire on 2/23/2010 4:00:44 PM , Rating: 2
+1

Awesome.


RE: All I could think about...
By just4U on 2/17/2010 10:03:27 AM , Rating: 2
Steve Austin ... Astronaut. Man Barely alive... We have the technology to rebuild him. To Make him Stronger, Faster, Better then he was before. (Music ramps up in the background)

Thanks Alot Seemonkey! It only took me 30 years to get that out of my head and now I've been thinking of the theme to The Six Million Dollar Man ever since you wrote that...

.... you suck! ;) Jk. I was just trying to remember it word for word.. I think Im close... and yes this does remind one of that or for others the terminator series.


RE: All I could think about...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 2/17/2010 10:28:01 AM , Rating: 2
Your welcome, it's what I do. You seem to remember the intro better then I did... Don't forget his heart rate monitor slowly getting faster and that slow action running to simulate super speed.


RE: All I could think about...
By just4U on 2/17/2010 12:52:01 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I didn't forget that. I even remember the look on Lee Majors face as he was running along during that intro. HAH.

Was one of my favorite shows as a kid! :)


RE: All I could think about...
By DFranch on 2/17/2010 10:49:37 AM , Rating: 2
Steve Austin. Astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the Technology. We have the capability to make the worlds first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better stronger Faster. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7zNY0I5JNI


RE: All I could think about...
By William Gaatjes on 2/17/2010 11:05:36 AM , Rating: 2
While looking at that video, i saw the bionic woman picture to the right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JH5hNk1nm0U&feature...

Lindsay Wagner, sigh... I am really getting old. I watched those series when i was old enough to slowly starting to get interested in girls and young enough to not know why and to be honest ,wanted to like my toys more. Since the girl i played with would have a habbit of braking my toys :(.

Took me a while to figure out why she did that though ...



RE: All I could think about...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 2/17/2010 11:15:13 AM , Rating: 2
A few months back I went through some old boxes... I re-discovered I still have my bionic man and space capsule. The eye that made everything look so far away (suppose to make you think you were seeing a great distance), button on the back to "lift" heavy items all still worked. Rubber skin that rolled up to reveal bionic chip was mostly gone because to time. Over-all good shape... I just needed to find my stretch Armstrong and I be ready to battle it out.


RE: All I could think about...
By just4U on 2/17/2010 12:57:31 PM , Rating: 2
That toy is worth some decent coin .. just a fyi. If it was in mint condition with it's original packaging you'd be doing a little dance about now.

I nearly <censored> myself when I found out what my toy batmobile (you know the slightly larger then normal little toy cars) that shot matchsticks out the back was selling for. Old popular toys in great shape can be worth some serious coin to collectors.


RE: All I could think about...
By just4U on 2/17/2010 12:54:10 PM , Rating: 2
CHEATER! I was going on memory I didn't use youtube :(
(actually no.. again im kidding thanks for that link as I'd never thought to look there)


Human Body
By lainofthewired on 2/17/2010 2:01:35 PM , Rating: 3
It amazes me that you need all that just for an ankle. Just marveling at the complexity and simplicity of the human body.




RE: Human Body
By Parhel on 2/17/2010 2:55:49 PM , Rating: 2
It's pretty simple when you look at it . . . discounting the sensor, for which a real foot doesn't have an equivalent. This has way fewer parts than an actual foot.


RE: Human Body
By kkwst2 on 2/18/2010 6:02:37 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
...discounting the sensor, for which a real foot doesn't have an equivalent.


You're kidding, right? There are about 75000 of them!


New meaning
By ClownPuncher on 2/17/2010 2:46:31 PM , Rating: 2
That adds an element of fear to the phrase "I'm gonna break my foot off in your ass!"




All I can think about....
By HandiCapable on 2/18/2010 2:51:29 PM , Rating: 2
...is how much I want this, and how my insurance company will never pay for it!

This foot could make such a difference in how I walk. I'm a right hemipelvectomy, no residual limb. My current prosthetic leg claim was sent to Aetna nearly 6 months ago and they still haven't paid it. The sum of all parts was just north of $74K. They haven't denied it. If fact they pre-approved it. They simple don't have the ability to rate such an unusual claim under the "usual and customary" method used these days to assign a value to the service. So it sits in limbo. I think of all the folks I know who could benefit from this tech, but the unfortunate truth is, we'll probably never get it paid for.

Just venting. Love this tech and grateful that folks are working on it.




"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay











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