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RR&D Research Career Scientist Award Application

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The over-arching goal of the Nominees research activities is to improve the quality of life of veterans and individuals with limb loss. Upper-limb prosthetics research is an area of particular interest and relevance to VA especially in times of war. The Nominee through his Laboratory the VA/CU Biomechatronics Development Laboratory and its people seeks to improve the prosthetic options available to veterans with limb loss through the application of novel approaches and technology to the development of clinically relevant prosthetic systems and solutions. While it is a personal goal of the Nominee to be able to develop an artificial hand replacement capable of true dexterous manipulation for use by persons with upper-limb loss the Nominee and his team explore all aspects of the problem ranging from neural control and sensing; mechatronic design and development; novel actuator technologies; novel physical suspension/interface techniques; clinical deployment of these systems; methods to manage phantom limb pain; conducting clinical testing of the systems developed. The Nominee has been in the field of Prosthesis design and Rehabilitation Research in one form or another (Student, Post-doc, Scientist, Mentor) for over 25 years and has maintained extramural funding over that period. The Nominee has had numerous contracts and grants to develop advanced limb systems for a number of different Federal funding agencies including VA, NIH, and DARPA as well as Subcontracts from UNB in Canada. Over that time, in addition to being a VA Researcher and academic researcher, the Nominee completed the training required to become a clinical prosthetist and was National Director of Research for Advanced Arm Dynamics (AAD) for 2 years, (AAD is a national provider of upper-limb prosthetics care), providing the Nominee with a deep clinical insight into how care is provided in our field of upper-limb prosthetics. As a result, the Nominee believes he should explore and provide practical solutions to immediately pressing clinical problems while also exploring ideas that push the envelope of current technology but that might lead to platform level technologies with the potential for broad impact across a number of unrelated fields in the longer term. The Nominee?s VA projects aim to address issues of immediate clinical relevance to veterans with arm amputations but do so in a novel and innovative way. In particular, the Nominee?s current VA grant is to develop and test a novel prosthesis controller based on the Nominee?s ideas of Posture Control. At issue is the poor control available for current multifunctional electric hands that fails to enable them to operate at their fullest potential. In Posture Control through novel processing the control signals are mapped to a two-dimensional space where coordinates in the space represent hand postures enabling whole hand Posture Control rather than joint based control. This control approach has been developed, tested and demonstrated and we are working with a company to integrate our algorithm into their prosthesis controller to translate it to the field. The Nominee?s non-VA research is centered around using optical methods to interrogate nerves. True dexterous control of an artificial hand will not be achieved without sensory feedback (touch, pressure, force) from a prosthetic hand interfaced directly to the user?s nervous system. The Nominee is exploring the use of optical methods to non-invasively promote action potentials within neurons or to read-out action potentials from a nerve. We have recently published results of our work demonstrating how optical methods could be used to communicate with peripheral nerves. This is a blue-sky project with a long event horizon yet still grounded in the possibility of translation. If used to interface with the median or ulnar nerves such an interface could provide sensory or motor control for a prosthesis. If the interface modulates the vagus nerve then many other options become possible ? such as modulating the neurons to the pancreas to control glucose and/or glycogen secretion without at the same time driving the heart. An example of the broad possibilities such an optically based peripheral nerve interface might provide.
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