A Medical Device Daily

University of Utah (Salt Lake City) researchers will receive up to $10.3 million to help develop a new prosthetic arm that would work, feel and look like a real arm.

The Utah work is a key part of a U.S. Department of Defense contract worth up to $55 million to develop the new device for soldiers and potentially others whose arms were amputated.

Bioengineer Greg Clark is leading a team of university researchers and subcontractors helping to develop the “lifelike“ arm. The university may get up to $3 million over the next four years for its share of the work in the Pentagon-funded project.

“Imagine an artificial arm that moves naturally in response to your thoughts, that allows you to feel both the outside world and your own movements, and that is as strong and graceful as an intact, biological limb,“ said Clark, the principal investigator on the project. “That's what our researchers, teaming with others around the world, are setting out to achieve . . . People's arms and hands are not only tools, but also an important means by which they explore the world and interact with others. We hope to restore that capability.“

The research is part of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA; Ft. Detrick, Maryland). DARPA said in a news release that it wants to “revolutionize prosthetic devices for amputee soldiers.“

Col. Geoff Ling, a physician and DARPA's Revolutionizing Prosthetics program manager, said: “Although our war fighters suffer fewer fatalities, they still suffer horrible injuries. And today one of the most devastating battlefield injuries is loss of a limb.“

The Pentagon announced the project in February when it said it was awarding the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (Baltimore) $30.4 million over two years, with optional additional funding that could bring the total to $54.8 million over four years. The laboratory is subcontracting tasks to 28 other universities, labs, hospitals and companies.

Under a contract signed with the Applied Physics Laboratory last month, as much as 18% of the $54.8 million will come to the University of Utah, which will get up to $4.8 million for the first two years and $10.3 million over all four years.