'Bionic' limb breakthrough made

UK scientists have developed technology that enables artificial limbs to be directly attached to a human skeleton. The breakthrough, developed by researchers at University College London, allows the prosthesis to breach the skin without risk of infection.

The technique, called Intraosseous Transcutaneous Amputation Prosthesis (ITAP), involves securing a titanium rod directly into the bone. The metal implant passes through the skin and the artificial limb can be directly attached to it.

Risk of infection, which could be caused by bacteria passing from the external limb through the rod to the bone, is avoided because the skin tissue meshes around the rod to form a seal.

To work out how to attach live tissue directly to metal, the scientists looked at how deers' antlers can grow through the animals' skin without infection. "What we had seen in the deer antlers was that it is very much to do with the structure and shape of the bone, and the porosity of the bone. The tissue attaches in with long fibres, and it is like anchors attaching directly into it."

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