& # 39; I want to be a guinea pig to help others & # 39;


John RobertsImage copyright
Tim Gander / Bath University

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John had an amputation after years of pain

John Roberts says he is happy to be a "guinea pig" if he can help others.

"There are people far worse than me who have lost limbs," says Gloucester's grandfather, who recently had part of his leg amputated.

The 70-year-old man is part of a research project that can transform the lives of thousands of people in England alone who have had a lower limb removed.

"No more pain," he says of life after surgery.

"I'm walking now, gardening, doing everything else I was doing all those years ago."

In a laboratory at the University of Bath, he strips off his prosthesis, stripping off three layers of socks and the silicone coating he uses to keep the prosthesis from rubbing.

John was born prematurely with one leg more than the other. Boots, tweezers and an operation all failed to relieve his pain and he recently took the last resort of an amputation, which improved his quality of life.

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Tim Gander / Uni Bath

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Vimal Dhokia design engineer adjusts liner to John's leg

Like all the people in his position – about 45,000 in England – he faces a long process of recovery, since the stump of his leg changes in size and shape after the operation.

Pain and discomfort can cause some patients to completely leave the prosthetic limb and rely on a wheelchair.

Bath scientists and engineers are developing synthetic coatings tailor-made to aid in the healing process, which can be manufactured and assembled in less than a day.

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Media LegendNew technology developed by scientists could help the daily life of amputees

It's going to make "a huge difference," says John. "I'll be happier. As far as I'm concerned, it will make life easier."

In a high-tech laboratory at the University of Bath, John has his residual limb digitized digitally in 3D.

Bath's engineers then convert the measurements into code and a machine makes a synthetic coating based on its individual contours that fit like a "glove."

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Tim Gander / Bath University

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John Roberts is helping scientists improve the performance of prosthetics

How it works

• Researchers use a 3D scanner to obtain a detailed residual limb image and design a custom fit coating

• The coating is cryogenically fabricated from a flexible neoprene-like material (similar to that used in neoprene suits)

• The coating is tested using sensors in the socket to check if there are no pressure points where the coating can cause damage to the skin.

• Patient gait and joint loading are checked using a motion capture system.

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Dr Vimal Dhokia (left), John Roberts (middle) and Dr Elena Seminati (right)

It is evidence, says Dr. Vimal Dhokia, of how engineering can solve the problems of everyday life.

With personalized products, you meet the specific needs of each patient, creating a product that fits best and can help them heal better, says the reader in design engineering.

"They can move better, they do not have the problems you have with current products that require continual changes or, in John's case, require a silicone coating and a number of socks."

We moved from engineering to another lab where Dr. Elena Seminati places sensors on John's limbs. This allows her to analyze her gait on a computer and make sure the prosthetic "slipper" fits perfectly with no pressure points.

"This liner will help John have a better life, a normal life," she says.

For John, a great advantage is the speed with which he could put his prosthetic leg in an emergency.

He is particularly worried about leaving quickly if there was a fire during the night.

Now he is eager to get on with his life. And he says that if this project can be used to benefit others, he will be happy.

"If I have to be a guinea pig, I'll be a guinea pig, I do not care," he says. "Because I always look at life – someone is worse off than I am."

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Tim Gander / Bath University

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The lining is made to fit the dimensions of the stump

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