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Researches at Vanderbilt University design a bionic limb that walks with a natural gait

Perhaps one of the greatest insults to the injury of losing a leg is the noticeable gait. Even with long pants, great effort is required by those unfortunate enough to lose a limb to move so as not to attract attention.

Now researchers at Vanderbilt have developed a prosthetic that may alleviate this problem.

“When it’s working, it’s totally different from my current prosthetic,” said Craig Hutto, the 23-year-old amputee who has been testing the leg for several years, in a press release on the university’s website. “A passive leg is always a step behind me. The Vanderbilt leg is only a split-second behind.”

The bionic limb employs some of the most advanced and smallest computer, sensor, electric motor and battery technology and is the first prosthetic with powered knee and ankle joints that operate in unison. The sensors monitor a user’s motion and has microprocessors programmed to predict how the amputee is attempting to move.

Also, so far, studies have shown that users equipped with the device naturally walk 25 percent faster on level surfaces than when they use passive lower-limb prosthetics. The Vanderbilt limb takes users 30 to 40 percent less of their own energy to operate.

“Going up and down slopes is one of the hardest things to do with a conventional leg,” said Hutto. “So I have to be conscious of where I go because I can get very tired walking up and down slopes.”

Hutto lost his leg in 2005 to a shark attack off the coast of Florida. Like, many other people with missing limbs, his story is one of heroics. Hopefully the Vanderbilt device will aid in returning his life to normal.

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