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Congress Tells DARPA: Research Alternatives to Amputations

Posted June 13, 2014

In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the marketing of the DEKA Arm System “Luke Skywalker” bionic arm, conceived in 2006 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). But a $491 billion House of Representatives appropriations bill approved June 10 asks DARPA to go one step backward: develop restorative products and technologies that may serve as an alternative to amputation.

This U.S. Department of Defense appropriations bill also has a section on “intelligent prosthetics.”
“The Committee recommends $30,000,000 for the peer-reviewed orthopedics research program,” the report states. “The Committee is aware that many of the injuries sustained by servicemembers in combat include multiple limb trauma and are often distinct from trauma typically seen in the civilian environment, thus requiring a unique solution set. The Committee encourages the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) to support research at the intersection of bioengineering, neuroscience, and rehabilitation to support neural interfaces to peripheral nerves and advanced prosthetics that deliver more functionality to amputees.”

Military amputation statistics show that almost 1,600 troops have lost limbs in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by