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Freedom Innovations Has Plans for Powered Knee and Ankle Prosthetic

Freedom Innovations LLC, an Irvine, Calif.-based manufacturer of advanced technology prosthetic devices, plans to sell and help finalize development of what the company claims is the world’s first fully powered prosthetic leg technology with the potential for the human mind to control its movements.

Through the result of an exclusive worldwide licensing arrangement with Vanderbilt University, Freedom will develop and commercialize a first-generation product using sophisticated mechanical control systems that will mimic the power and gait characteristics of the human leg.
Future generations of the product may incorporate neurological control systems, making the technology even more lifelike by allowing the user to control the movements through the brain, company officials said.

This phase of the technology is being developed and refined through partnerships with organizations such as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Work in this area already has begun using an early prototype of the powered leg in a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) by RIC.

The Freedom Powered Knee and Ankle System features state-of-the-art microelectronic technology, which allows intelligent communication between the user and the prosthesis. It received global attention recently when a team of researchers led by Levi Hargrove, Ph.D., lab director from the RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine, announced promising results in the NEJM.

The researchers, working with the advanced motorized knee and ankle prosthesis developed at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Intelligent Mechatronics, studied and measured the brain-driven “steering” capabilities of the device. The study revealed that with the new technology designed for above-the-knee amputees, the “rate of errors,” including the risk of falls, was reduced to just 1.8 percent with the new device, down from 12.9 percent with the standard robotic leg prosthesis.

Additional refinements are needed to make the first generation powered leg commercially viable—and that is where Freedom Innovations’ role comes into play. The company is working on making the motorized devices smaller, quieter, more robust and more user-friendly.

"The positive results of this study are an important milestone for Freedom Innovations as we embark on the next step toward making this remarkable technology available to amputees,” said Maynard Carkhuff, president and CEO of Freedom Innovations. “Our mission to bring innovative products to enable people with physical disabilities to achieve their full potential is being taken to an absolute new level now as we will soon be able to provide amputees with functional limbs they can control that will be even more user friendly, smaller, quieter and more mobile than the prototypes used in the RIC study.”

Carkhuff added that Freedom plans to have the technology available within three to five years. Additional designs to modularize the system also will ensure that below-the-knee amputees will have the opportunity to benefit from the powered ankle and foot technology.

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