Chicago Health Magazine Profiles Regenstein Foundation Center for Bionic Medicine’s Bionic Leg Testing


Chicago Health Magazine Profiles Regenstein Foundation Center for Bionic Medicine’s Bionic Leg Testing


A recent article in Chicago Health magazine highlighted the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Regenstein Foundation Center for Bionic Medicine’s (CBM) testing of bionic prosthetic legs for patients with lower-limb amputations. The article includes interviews with CBM’s scientific chair, Levi Hargrove, PhD, and director of Research Operations, Suzanne Finucane; as well as research subject Stephen Littig.

In the article, Dr. Hargrove described the difference between traditional and bionic prostheses.

Traditional prosthetic legs are “like a stiff walking stick on the end of a spring,” he said. “People bounce along when they walk. It is very difficult for many people to walk up and down stairs or a slope, to sit down and stand up.”

With bionic prostheses, nerves instruct leg muscles that remain after the amputation to contract; electrodes placed over the muscles detect the movement the person wants to make and sends the signals to a computer; the computer sends a command to the motorized knee and ankle, which execute the desired coordinated movements. 

“The movement of the [bionic] leg is seamless and intuitive,” said Dr. Hargrove. “Some participants in the study say that walking with their own prosthesis is like walking in a ski boot that is heavy and cumbersome because the ankle can’t move, and the bionic leg is like walking without one. In general, our research subjects have observed that the leg feels like an extension of their body, enabling them to get around seamlessly.”

Stephen described his first time using a bionic leg in a CBM trial:

“I started laughing because it is so wonderful. It gave me so much confidence that I no longer had a fear of falling. With my prosthesis I have to go up and down the stairs one at a time, and with the bionic leg, I can go step over step, up and down. I have to zigzag going up or down a ramp, and with the bionic leg I can just walk straight up and down.”

Read the full Chicago Health magazine story.

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