Better materials, manufacturing approaches and electronics are rapidly improving the quality of prosthetic devices, making them more responsive, more comfortable and better looking.
It's a development that could improve the quality of life for large numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, as well as many thousands more around the world who have lost limbs as a result of land mines, natural disasters or illnesses, such as diabetes.
One example is a prosthetic foot—called the Rhythm Foot—made with Hytrel thermoplastic polyester elastomer, a material that combines the flexibility of elastomer with the moldability of thermoplastics.
The foot anatomically mimics biological foot action and can be adjusted to fine tune its performance-a big difference from existing prosthetic feet. The foot is intended for use as a permanent option or as an interim prosthesis for the shower, swimming or for post-operative use.
"There are more than 20 million people without lower limbs who could benefit from this type of foot—the challenge was affordability," said its inventor, Rob Gabourie, a Canadian prosthetist and the owner of Niagara Prosthetics and Orthotics International Ltd. (NPOI), based in Ontario, Canada. ...