A first-of-it’s-kind artificial limb socket made of plastic has been created at the De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).
According to a statement from the University, Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, a senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, ground plastic bottles down into a granulated material that was spun into polyester yarns. These were then heated up to form a solid, lightweight material that was moulded into prosthetic limbs.
“Upcycling of recycled plastics and offering affordable prosthesis are two major global issues that we need to tackle. We wanted to develop a prosthetic limb that was cost effective yet comfortable and durable for amputee patients,” Dr Kandan said in the statement. “There are so many people in developing countries who would really benefit from quality artificial limbs but unfortunately cannot afford them.”
When compared to the current industry average of around £5,000 (around R93,000) each, the cost of producing a prosthetic socket in this manner is phenomenally cheaper at just £10 (around R180).
The project was funded by the Global Challenges Research Funding (GCRF) and the Academy of Medical Sciences. The prosthetic was tested in India on two patients who had their legs amputated, one below the knee and one above.
“Both patients were really impressed – they said the prosthetic was lightweight and easy to walk with, and that it allowed air to flow to the rest of their leg, which is ideal for the hot climate in India,” said Kandan. “The aim of this project was to identify cheaper materials that we could use to help these people, and that’s what we have done.”
They are now looking to conduct a larger-scale study with more people from different countries.
“People have their limbs amputated for a number of reasons – from diabetes and infection to accidents and injuries,” he said. “We want to further develop the design so that the prosthetic limb can be custom-made to meet each patient’s needs.”