Scientists from University College London have created a technology that allows artificial limbs to be connected directly into the human skeleton. The scientists say that the technique, which involves securing a titanium rod directly into bone, breaches the skin - but there is no risk of infection.
The scientists have been very encouraged by initial clinical trial results. The trials took place at Mount Vernon Hospital, Middlesex, England. The volunteers were patients who had lost their fingers and/or thumbs. Further trials using arms and legs are planned. It is possible that people who lost limbs during the July 7th, 2005, London bomb attacks could take part.
This technique, called Intraosseous Transcutaneous Amputation Prosthesis (ITAP), could eventually lead to artificial limbs which are controlled by the central nervous system.
With the use of a titanium rod an artificial limb can be directly attached to the human bone. To date, all artificial limbs are strapped onto the outside of the body - they do not breach the skin.
The scientists say the skin fuses around the rod and forms a seal, this prevents infection.
Prof. Gordon Blunn and Dr. Catharine Pendegrass studied how deer antlers perforate the skin without infection coming through. Using the observations, they designed the way the titanium rod could breach the skin and attach to the bone.
You can read about this breakthrough in the *Journal of Anatomy*.
If all goes well, we could be a couple of years away from replacing fingers and thumbs and about five years away from replacing upper and lower limbs.
People who use prosthetic limbs experiences numbness and soreness because the artificial limb presses against the skin, usually the stump. With this technique the soreness and/or numbness just would not happen.
*Journal of Anatomy* Volume 209 Page 59 - July 2006 doi:10.1111/j.1469-7580.2006.00595.x Volume 209 Issue 1 *Nature's answer to breaching the skin barrier: an innovative development for amputees* C. J. Pendegrass, A. E. Goodship, J. S. Price and G. W. Blunnhttp://www.medicalnewstoday.com/healthnews.php?newsid=46475&nfid=nl