Össur, a company based in Iceland, is currently making an innovative bionic limb for physically disabled people that can be controlled with the mind of the user. It might sound far-fetched but with the help of tiny implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) in the residual muscle tissue of an amputee, it is actually quite possible.
[Image Courtesy of Ossur]
How it actually works
What happens is that when the amputee thinks of a certain movement prior to its implementation, for example when they think of moving their right leg in order to start walking, the brain signals that travel to the leg muscles for the execution of the movement are captured by the surgically implanted sensors.
These sensors then take the transmitted brain signals and correspondingly transmits another signal to a receiver located in the bionic limb. This received signal dictates how the prosthesis moves and this movement is designed to correspond to the amputee’s desired movement.
The device has also been designed to be very adaptive to the walking style and scenario of the user. So for example, the device should know how the user prefers to walk and when a user actually wants to walk, run, or even climb the stairs.
[Image Courtesy of Ossur]
It can be seen that this device is the offspring of two fields; electronics and mechanics. It has electronic components such as the sensors and electrical signals transmitted between the sensor and the receiver, among other things. It also has moving mechanical parts that move in accordance with the work done by the electronic components. This combination of electronics and mechanics is also known as mechatronics.
On May 20th, an announcement was made by the President and CEO of Össur, Jon Sigurdsson, who has been credited with the creation of the world’s first bionic prostheses.
“Mind-controlled Bionic prosthetic legs are a remarkable clinical breakthrough in next-generation Bionic technology, By adapting not only to the individual’s intentional movements but to intuitive actions, we are closer than ever to creating prosthetics that are truly integrated with their user.” he said during the company’s Capital Markets Day in Copenhagen.
Dr. Thorvaldur Ingvarsson, M.D., Ph.D, the orthopedic surgeon leading the research and development of the mid-controlled prosthesis project at Össur also had a few words to say. He said, “The technology allows the user’s experience with their prosthesis to become more intuitive and integrative. The result is the instantaneous physical movement of the prosthesis however the amputee intended. They no longer need to think about their movements because their unconscious reflexes are automatically converted into myoelectric impulses that control their Bionic prosthesis.”
Other useful information
Össur created a variety of bionic prostheses which include the Power Knee, Rheo Knee, Proprio Foot, and the Symbionic Leg. A significant amount of their buyers are Western buyers and the company nets around $500 million per year.
[Image Courtesy of Fortune]
Initially, two amputees participated in the company’s first-in-man research. They have both been implanted with IMES and have been using Össur’s bionic limb for over a year. Most of the feedback received from them were positive and further clinical trials will continue to be done on them in order to both assess and improve the technology.
A quote from the CEO: “As a global leader in prosthetics and orthopaedics, we at Össur never stop innovating. We are resolute in our commitment to expand the boundaries of possibility, so that we may help even more people enjoy a life without limitations.”