Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Bionic Vet and a Cat Named Oscar

A cat, named Oscar, was referred to Mr. Fitzpatrick, following an accident last October when he was struck by a combine harvester while snoozing in the sun. His back feet were severed by the farm equipment, but thanks to a world-first operation, Oscar has been given two prosthetic limbs!

The new feet are custom-made implants that "peg" the ankle to the foot. They are bioengineered to mimic the way deer antler bone grows through the skin. The operation was carried out by Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon based in Surrey in the UK. His work is explored in a BBC documentary called The Bionic Vet.

The prosthetic pegs, called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (Itaps) were developed by a team from University College London led by Professor Gordon Blunn, who is head of UCL's Centre for Biomedical Engineering. Professor Blunn and his team have worked in partnership with Mr Fitzpatrick to develop these weight-bearing implants, combining engineering mechanics with biology.

Mr Fitzpatrick explained: "The real revolution with Oscar is [that]…we have managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an 'exoprosthesis' that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal's limbs to give him effectively normal gait." He said that the success of this operation showed the potential of the technology.

"Noel has some brilliant ideas," Professor Blunn added. "And we're continuing to work closely with him to develop new technologies."

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