Man climbs 103 floors with neural-controlled prosthetic leg

On November 4, Zac Vawter climbed 103 floors of Chicago’s Willis Tower in SkyRise Chicago, a climb and fundraising event to benefit Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s clinical care and innovative research. Vawter used a neural-controlled prosthetic leg powered by his own thoughts.

Vawter was one of nearly 3,000 participants who either climbed, handcycled or otherwise raised funds for the event.

According to a press release, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) Center for Bionic Medicine pioneered the Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR) technique that allows amputees to have a more natural control of prosthetic devices. Vawter, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident 3 years ago, underwent the reinnervation procedure when his leg was amputated. About a year ago, he became part of RIC’s research trial and travels to Chicago every few months to test the prosthetic leg that has a power knee and ankle.

The prosthetic project is a collaborative effort among RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine, the University of New Brunswick, Vanderbilt University, University of Rhode Island and MIT.

“There are approximately 600,000 individuals with lower limb amputation in the United States, and we are hopeful that this neural-controlled technology will allow for more ability and more long-term independence,” Levi Hargrove, PhD, director of the neural engineering for Prosthetics and Orthotics Lab within RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine, said.

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