Amputees discover new mobility with bionic leg (VIDEO)

The new bionic leg increases functionality and control for above the knee amputees. (Angela G. Barnes/Medill)

By Angela G. Barnes and Anne Arntson

Remember “The Bionic Woman” from the ’70s?  Today scientists from Feinberg and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) have developed a smart robust bionic leg for above-the-knee amputees.

This new advanced leg will give patients better functionality and versatility to improve their natural walking patterns.

Levi Hargrove, Ph.D. assistant professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at RIC says patients  can regulate their movements by using their own biological signals to control the leg.

“You just think about moving and the limb responds,” said Hargrove.

This is all done through sensors that are inside the leg socket, which is attached to the patient.

John Spanias, Northwestern University Researcher says this second generation leg will be unique to the patient and will increase their quality of life .

“Once the patient is fitted for the leg, it will enable them to do a wide range of activities,” he said.

Doctors say this bionic leg will allow patients to scale stairs with step-over-step movements unlike the old prosthetics, which limited patients’ movements: one step at a time.

The new leg is still in the research phase.  Doctors say they are making sure the leg is safe, robust and intuitive. The next step is to send the leg home with patients.

“We have a trial we’re starting right now with partners at Vanderbilt University and the Army,” said Dr. Hargrove  “…to send this home with 16 people so that we can see how it works in their home environment and community.”

The bionic leg is expected to be available in three to five years.

Photo at top: The new bionic leg increases functionality and control for above-the-knee amputees. (Angela G. Barnes/Medill)