'Bionic Man' visits UVU, reveals latest in prosthetics

OREM, Utah (News4Utah) - Dr. Hugh Herr is a professor at MIT and one of the leaders in prosthetic technology. A double amputee himself, Herr spoke to UVU students about the latest in the world of prosthetics. 

Dr. Herr lost both legs in a climbing accident, but found his passion in prosthetics and kept on climbing. One technology he spoke about Wednesday is called osseointegration, where surgeons attach the prosthetic to the existing bone, giving the amputee significantly more mobility. 

Bryant Jacobs is an osseointegration success story and says it's changing the landscape of prosthetics. Speaking about Herr, Jacobs said, "He was a huge inspiration to me from right after amputation knowing that I could possibly do whatever I wanted."

Dr. Herr's team is already taking the procedure one step further, by integrating the cut nerve endings. Herr said, "We want to connect nerve endings to the electro-mechanics of the prosthesis so a person can think and move the prosthesis, and we want the person to be able to feel the limb with natural sensations."

Dr. Herr says the biggest hurdle to the technology is accessibility. Advanced prosthetics are so expensive that only about 15 percent of Americans could afford them or would be offered one through workers compensation. But his team is working to bring the cost down to meet what they see as a cultural reality.

"We think bionics will be generally used by the population in the very near future because we all want to be better and stronger and faster."

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