Oscar the Cat walks again with bionic limbs

Bionic feet for amputee cat. Oscar gets to try his new feet. A cat that had its back feet severed by a combine harvester has been given two prosthetic limbs in a pioneering operation by a UK vet.The new feet are custom-made implants that “peg” the ankle to the foot. They are bioengineered to mimic the way deer antler bone grows through the skin. The operation – a world first – was carried out by Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon based in Surrey.His work is explored in a BBC documentary called The Bionic Vet. The cat, named Oscar, was referred to Mr Fitzpatrick by his local vet in Jersey, following the accident last October. Oscar was struck by the combine harvester whilst dozing in the sun. The prosthetic pegs, called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (Itaps) were developed by a team from University College London led by Professor Gordon Blunn, who is head of UCL’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering. Professor Blunn and his team have worked in partnership with Mr Fitzpatrick to develop these weight-bearing implants, combining engineering mechanics with biology. Mr Fitzpatrick explained:

“The real revolution with Oscar is [that] we have put a piece of metal and a flange into which skin grows into an extremely tight bone.” “We have managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an ‘exoprosthesis’ that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal’s limbs to give him effectively normal gait.”Professor Blunn told BBC News the idea was initially developed for patients with amputations who have a “stump socket”. “This means they fix their artifical limb with a sock, which fits over the stump. In a lot of cases this is sucessful, but you [often] get rubbing and pressure sores.” The Itap technology is being tested in humans and has already been used to create a prosthetic for a woman who lost her arm in the July 2005 London bombings. “The intriguing thing with Oscar was that he had two implants – one in each back leg, and in quite an unusual site,” Professor Blunn told BBC News.He said that the success of this operation showed the potential of the technology. “Noel has some brilliant ideas,” he added. “And we’re continuing to work closely with him to develop new technologies.” The Bionic Vet is on BBC 1 at 2245 BST on Wednesday. ~ World first for veterinary

science designed at UCL.  UCL’s expertise in biomedical engineering has underpinned a world first in veterinary science that may have major implications for human medicine. Scientists at UCL’s Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculokeletal Science (IOMS) helped design a unique implant for a dog suffering from cancer. Roly, an eight-year-old American bulldog, received the replacement for a cancerous bone in his rear hind leg just nine weeks ago, but he is already able to walk again. The implant – the result of three years of research – mirrors Roly’s original femur and allow tendons to ‘grow’ into metal, restoring total mobility and function. It was designed by Professor Gordon Blunn, head of the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at IOMS, in collaboration with leading neuro-orthopaedic veterinary surgeon Dr Noel Fitzpatrick, and specialist implant manufacturer OrthoFitz. Dr Fitzpatrick performed the operation in March, removing the femur and hip joint, implanting the prosthesis, and reattaching the musculature in a complex two-hour procedure. Its success has implications for human

accident victims whose recovery involves successfully reattaching tendons to bone, such as tennis or cricket players with ruptured tendons in the shoulders. Professor Blunn said: “What is significant about the design is the way in which it sandwiches tissue and metal together, overlaying the gluteal muscles on to the top of the endoprosthetic femur – alternating tendon, synthetic Dacron mesh, tendon, synthetic Dacron mesh, tendon and finally trabecular metal – which has a honeycomb surface resembling a series of small chambers. “In this way, the hope is that the Sharpeys fibres which attach tendons of muscles to the bone will grow into the trabecular metal surface and permanently adhere to it.” Dr Fitzpatrick added: “This truly remarkable achievement was made possible through the convergence of biomechanics, biology and surgical innovation.” Fitzpatrick Referrals is a leading veterinary referral practice in Surrey that specialises in small animal orthopaedics and neuro-surgery. UCL context; IOMS has an international reputation for translational research in orthopaedics, and its research themes embrace osteoporosis, bone tumour biology, joint replacement, tissue engineering, performance/ rehabilitation, peripheral nerve and spinal injury. Sources: news.bbc.co.uk & ucl.ac.uk

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