'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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18 Responses:

  1. revsphynx says:

    But will it make that cool noise that Steve Austin made?

  2. drbrain says:

    How long until people can get Wolverine-like claws?

  3. gytterberg says:


    There's some "dairy makes you skinny" commercial on TV lately with music that makes me want to start bellowing "TETSUO! KANEDA!!"

    Is it just me or does the hand in the first picture not appear to be missing anything but a fingernail?

  4. I was SO hoping I wasn't the only one to get the subject reference. Thankfully, I wasn't. Hooray gytterberg!

  5. pauraque says:

    Used to be some fellow I often saw in Berkeley who had metal snaps in his head, like the snaps on a kid's jacket. He used them to snap devil horns onto himself (one side of the snap on his head, the other side on the horn, you see). Maybe I was misinterpreting what he'd done to himself, but I always thought they were bolted into his skull. Isn't that pretty much the same as what they're talking about here?

    • gfish says:

      There have been similar body-mod techniques for some time, but they didn't work very well. The skin only rarely healed properly around them, so they constantly had to deal infection and rejection issues. If this new technique is as good as the article claims, it's a fairly significant step forward.

    • elanswer says:

      Omg ow!!! Not at the body-mod itself, but at thinking of when he would remove the horns... if anything like how hard it sometimes is to unsnap jackets... *shudder*

    • jwz says:

      My understanding is that the way those sorts of piercings work is there is a plate inserted under the skin that the snaps or whatever are anchored to. There is still tissue between that plate and the bone, so really it's just a funny-shaped barbell. The breakthrough here is anchoring metal to bone directly, without exposing the bone to the elements (which is Very Bad).

    • That rings a bell ... ahh, google eventually gets me to Steve Haworth and his head spikes. They do appear to be transdermal, but I don't know if they attach to bone or (as jwz says downthread) are just funny-shaped barbells.

      I don't think I'd want to risk attaching extra stuff to my skeleton, especially attaching things with long lever-arms to my head. What if it caught on something and broke out a section of skull? I've always been pleased at how few places there are on a human body which catch on stuff.

      Having a funny-shaped barbell rip out of my skin would be unpleasant too, but unlikely to kill me outright. (Note to self: do not get a femoral-artery ring, no matter how fashionable it may become.)

  6. Just looking at it makes my finger hurt.