New technology being developed in Boston is giving amputees newfound mobility.
“Smart limbs” being developed at MIT are possible because of the Ewing Amputation. The procedure developed between MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital protects the nerves and muscles so the limb can continue to communicate with the brain.
MIT professor Hugh Herr helped develop the surgery and is leading development of the robotic limbs. He’s also a double amputee himself.
“So, when we did our first human patient and we put the bionic limb on him and we saw natural movements emerged, emerging through the mechatronics in natural ways it was truly exhilarating,” he says.
Rebecca Mann, a Ewing amputee, tried out the robotic leg. She says it’s sort of like an extension of your body.
Brandon Korona injured his leg in Afghanistan and became the first veteran to have the Ewing Amputation.
“Being able to kind of have something that I can control with my mind still even though my foot is not there. It kind of brings everything full circle,” he says.
He’s now training to run the Boston Marathon in 2020 and this September Rebecca and Brandon ran the Falmouth Road Race with fellow amputee Tammy Jerome.
This group was brought together though the “Stepping Strong Center” created at Brigham by the family of marathon bombing survivor Gillian Reny.
Professor Herr says, “It’s a wonderful experience as a researcher to put a robot on their leg and they walk away and start crying or laughing.”
The grants awarded by Stepping Strong are part of what made the Ewing Amputation possible, paving the way for the future of prosthetics.
One of the next steps in the prosthetics project at MIT is designing new sockets.. improving the communication between the amputation and robotic limb.