Canadian engineer creates ultra-cheap prosthetic leg
Jan Andrysek’s award-winning LC Knee costs 90 percent less to manufacture than commercially available prosthetics.
Toronto — Grand Challenges Canada, a government funded not-for-profit dedicated to global health, has awarded 15 grants valued at more than $1.5 million to support Canadian innovators working to improve global health conditions.
Among those to receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their innovations is Dr. Jan Andrysek, a University of Toronto professor of biomaterial and biomedical engineering. Dr. Andrysek, who is also a scientist at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, won for his LC Knee project, a prosthetic designed for people who’ve lost a leg above the knee. Unlike other such artificial limbs that cost upwards of $3,000, the LC can be manufactured for $50.
Intended for amputees in developing countries, the LC Knee achieves its low price point through the use of low-cost materials and mass-production processes. In lieu of complex hydraulically-actuated mechanisms or microprossessor-controlled joints, the LC Knee is composed of injection moulded thermoplastics and relies on a straight-forward mechanical design.
Based on Simplified Automatic Stance-Phase Lock (SASPL) technology, the mechanism “locks” when the user puts weight on the artificial joint, but automatically unlocks as a user swings their leg forward, providing for a natural-looking gait.
In addition to being significantly cheaper than commercially available prosthetics, the LC Knee’s simple design and polymer material also allow to be used in water and other harsh environments. Although not commercially available yet, The LC Knee is currently undergoing clinical testing in Canada and El Salvador.
In addition to Dr. Andrysek, other Grand Challenges award recipients include:
- Dr. Walter Karlen of Vancouver, who is developing a low-cost cell phone application to diagnose pneumonia in the developing world.
- Dr. Aman Ullah (Edmonton), who is developing a filter made from chicken feathers to eliminate the deadly carcinogen, arsenic, from drinking water.
- Dr.Karim Damji (Edmonton), who is developing methodologies for preventing and treating glaucoma, a major cause of blindness in poor countries.
- Dr. Karim S. Karim (Waterloo), who is working on a device for rapid TB detection through digital imaging, a low-cost and effective diagnostic.
- Dr. Cedric Yansouni (Montreal), who is working on a diagnostic that is cost effective and non-invasive to determine whether a patient has visceral leishmaniasis, a deadly disease.
- Dr. David Richard (Quebec City), who is working on a low-cost vaccine for malaria, a disease that infects 216 million people a year and kills 655,000 annually.
If the recipients’ ideas are effective and proven, they will then be eligible for an additional Grand Challenges Canada scale-up grant of $1 million. Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada through the Development Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Federal Budget.