UMass researchers looking to create more functional, comfortable prostheses

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are aiming to create better fitting, more functional lower limb prostheses for amputees, especially those over 65 years, according to a recent press release.

The project, dubbed “Simulation Guided Design to Optimize the Performance of Robotic Lower Limb Prostheses,” will use detailed musculoskeletal models and control simulations to optimize loading conditions in amputees while minimizing metabolic energy consumption.

Frank Sup

Brian Umberger


The researchers will generate prosthesis forms through predictive simulations, then reverse-engineer the results to develop robotic ankle prostheses that allow the best possible gait performance, according to the release. Each participant in the study will undergo a whole-body, computerized, gait analysis while walking in a passive, daily-use prosthesis, and then in the custom-designed robotic prosthesis.

Frank Sup, PhD, director of the Mechatronics and Robotics Research Laboratory in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and researcher on the project, hopes the new device can restore natural joint strength and relieve discomfort amputees commonly experience in their residual limb due to ill-fitting prostheses.

“The major outcome … will be an improved approach for designing prosthetic devices that reduce loading on the body and make walking easier,” Sup and research partner Brian Umberger, PhD, co-director of the Biomechanics Laboratory in the kinesiology department, said in the release.

The project is funded by a $630,331 grant over 3 years from the National Science Foundation, the release said. Funding is also provided by the National Robotics Initiative, NIH, United States Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.


Disclosure: Sup and Umberger report no relevant financial disclosures.

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