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24/09/2017
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UdeA engineers develop more comfortable prosthetic limbs

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UdeA engineers develop more comfortable prosthetic limbs

UdeA engineers are currently working to develop more comfortable prosthetic limbs and make life easier for amputees.

Outwardly these prosthetics limbs don't differ much from conventional prosthetics, however, they are equipped with state-of-the-art technology which would warrant a new patent application.

Initially, the goal of the researchers seemed simple enough: improve the lifestyle of people with limb loss. However, things quickly got complex since this development requires not only thorough research but also studies to know to what extent existing conventional prosthetics are comfortable for amputees.

Researchers from Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad del Norte and Purdue University are working together in order to develop more comfortable, user-friendly prosthetics.

A doctoral dissertation on the experiences of people with limb loss using prosthetic devices encouraged a team of engineers to investigate the sore problem of prosthetic limbs since many amputees suffer ulcers and deformation of the residual limb.  

To this end, the researchers focused on improving the inside of the prosthetic socket. Through a process known as micromachining of polypropylene the team of engineers is working to design prosthetic sockets that provide cushion and comfort as well as better fit for the residual limb.   

The project also involves the use of nanotechnology as the prosthetic socket is designed to be equipped with drugs and proteins in order to provide extra skin protection and patient comfort.  To this end, the researchers use antibiotic-impregnated plastic materials as well as anti-inflammatory drugs in order to reduce the risk of infections.

The drugs and molecules used to provide skin protection don’t affect the appearance of the socket due to the molecular nanotechnology used in this process. These products don't affect the lifespan of the prosthetic limb since it is designed to last a lifetime.

Juan Jose Palacio, coordinator of the UdeA Advanced Biomaterials & Regenerative Medicine Group, says that although customized prosthetics have existed for a long time and currently there are very sophisticated prosthetic sockets that are manufactured using 3d printing, the socket developed by UdeA engineers has skin-friendly materials that provide better patient comfort. "What we aim to do is deliver high-quality biological tissue solutions," he said.  

This breakthrough may also be useful to help reduce the risk of skin irritation caused by prolonged exposure to foreign materials. For example, bedridden patients who develop skin lesions caused by friction or rubbing of the skin against sheets.

The team of researchers is currently working in the development of interior socket texturing in order to be tested with volunteer amputees and subsequently commercialize this technology.

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