The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland, was awarded a $30.4 million contract to begin the first phase of Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009, a four-year program to develop a next-generation mechanical prosthetic arm.
The contract was awarded under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program, an effort to provide the most advanced medical and rehabilitative technologies for military personnel injured in the line of duty. APL said that Stuart D. Harshbarger, along with a core group of engineers, scientists, and medical professionals from APL, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Whiting School of Engineering, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, will lead an interdisciplinary team of government agencies, universities and private firms to implement DARPA' s vision.
The APL-led team's research will focus on advanced neural control strategies that will allow the user to operate the arm in a near-biological manner; that is, to feel and manipulate objects as a person would with a real hand. They also aim to develop new power, actuation, and control technologies, as well as advanced sensors. "The resulting prosthetic system will provide a significantly improved quality of lifeover a range of daily living and job functions, including the dexterous manipulation of objects," Harshbarger says.
"Our challenge is to advance the base of scientific understanding related to neural control mechanisms and physiological function of the human limb, while at the same time developing innovative engineering solutions that can be successfully implemented," he adds. "DARPA wants this technology ready for clinical trials in only four years, so there is no time for us to recreate the wheel. We have handpicked a team that has decades of experience in prosthetics, but more importantly has made recent advances that are ready to be realized.