Low cost prosthetic knee could help amputees in developing world

Dr. Jan Andrysek, Scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, has been named rising star in global health by Grand Challenges Canada and received a $100,000 grant to continue his work on the LC Knee joint, a low cost prosthetic knee that has the potential to be mass-produced and distributed to amputees in the developing world.

Countries such as Haiti, Cambodia and Afghanistan have a need for prosthetic devices due to the high number of amputations resulting from natural disasters and land mine injuries, but cost and lack of funding make these devices inaccessible to amputees.  In Canada, where prosthetic devices range from $5,000 – $50,000, Andrysek’s LC Knee joint can be manufactured for approximately $50, because it’s made of low cost thermoplastics and relies on injection molding techniques, but cost is not the only advantage.

“A key component of the limb is its unique knee mechanism that functions much like the human joint. It automatically locks and unlocks itself based on how the person is putting weight on the limb,” Andrysek says. This provides for a natural looking gait.   The plastic knee is also durable and waterproof which will likely make it effective in rough terrain and humidity – the type of environment you would expect to find in developing countries.”

Andrysek has spent about six years developing the knee joint with a team at the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Andrysek says the LC Knee was really the product of their initial work with children, where the key criteria include making the joint functional, for active kids, but also very durable. What developed from these criteria was a knee joint that also fit the needs of developing countries and addressed a gap in global accessibility.

Andrysek plans to use his $100,000 grant to further test the LC Knee in developing countries. Researchers whose ideas prove successful are eligible for another 1 million from Grand Challenges Canada to help get their innovation to the people who need it most.

“As a researcher, one of the most rewarding things is when you can actually take a project from the beginning, with the conceptualization, and actually get to a point where it gets out and starts having an impact on people’s lives and people’s health,” says Andrysek.

The grant is one of 15 that Grand Challenges Canada awards to Canadian researchers that solve some of the most persistent health challenges in the developing world through scientific/technological, business and social innovation.

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