Making Wounded Warriors Whole Again

Col. Paul Pasquina

More than 1,200 American servicemen have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq with missing limbs. Along with researchers at a number of academic and government labs, faculty members at WPI are pursuing an ambitious goal: helping wounded warriors lead better, more independent lives by developing a new generation of advanced, implantable prosthetic limbs.

Over the past year, WPI helped advance that goal through research and by sponsoring Neuroprosthetics 2009, the first national conference in this emerging field. Organized by WPI’s Bioengineering Institute (BEI), with support from the John Adams Innovation Institute, the conference brought together more than 150 scientists, clinicians, engineers, and advocates to discuss the field and advance collaborations that will push next-generation artificial limbs closer to clinical applications. Col. Paul Pasquina, MD, chief of the Integrated Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and medical director of the U.S. Army's Amputee Program, was the keynote speaker.  Planning is under way for Neuroprosthetics 2010.

WPI's own research in neuroprosthetics began in 2007 with a $1 million congressional allocation championed by Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Congressman Jim McGovern. In late 2009, word came of a new $1.6 million allocation that will, in particular, fund research on neural control and regeneration, work that may one day make it possible for prostheses to send feedback to and receive commands directly from the brain.

"We owe it to those who have made sacrifices for our country to apply our know-how and expertise to making them whole again," says BEI director Grant McGimpsey. "This is the goal that drives everyone engaged in this research."

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