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McCormick Professor’s Work toward High-tech Prostheses Featured in New York Times

Todd Kuiken’s targeted muscle reinnervation procedure helps veteran after the loss of his arm

Two years ago, Cpl. Sebastian Gallegos lost an arm in the war in Afghanistan. Now in its place is a high-tech prosthesis that could be a step toward more intuitive solutions for amputees.

That $110,000 robotic prosthetic limb, coupled with an innovative surgery developed by a McCormick School of Engineering professor, could allow Gallegos to control the device more simply using only his thoughts.

Gallegos and his experience with the surgery were recently featured in an article, “Learning to Accept, and Master, a $110,000 Mechanical Arm,” on November 26 in the New York Times.

The surgical procedure, known as targeted muscle reinnervation, was developed by Todd Kuiken, professor of biomedical engineering at McCormick and of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

Kuiken, who is the director of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs, uses the method to graft nerve endings that once went into an amputee’s limb onto the amputee’s pectoral muscle.

 Once the nerve endings grew into their new location, Kuiken and his team use sensors to read the impulses of the nerve to move a prosthetic limb. These nerve endings are also able to receive input, meaning that new prosthetic devices could actually provide touch sensation to the user as a real limb would.

Read the New York Times article.