Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pioneering implant to get dog back on all fours

RALEIGH, N.C. - For the first time, scientists have implanted a prosthesis that will allow them to directly fuse an artificial leg into a dog’s bone, a procedure that could foster a breakthrough in designing next-generation artificial limbs for humans.

In the four-hour operation Thursday at the North Carolina State University Veterinary School, Denis Marcellin-Little, an associate professor of veterinary orthopedics, fused a titanium implant onto what was left of the leg bone of Cassidy, a 5-year-old German shepherd mix who lost his right hind leg several years ago.

When Cassidy is discharged and goes home Friday to Long Island, N.Y., his leg won’t look much different, except for the visible tip of the implant. When Cassidy returns in the fall, the prosthetic leg should be ready to try

Ola Harrysson, an N.C. State engineering professor who developed the hardware, said he and his team were still working on computer models for the design.

“Right now, we are designing a prosthetic leg for Cassidy that will have sensors in it to measure the force," Harrysson said. “That way, we can fine tune the strength.”

‘I was saving a life when I took him’
For Cassidy, the future holds the likelihood that he will be able to run normally again.

Steve Posovsky adopted the dog after he saw him on the pet segment of a morning television show. Cassidy was “unadoptable” because he had only three legs, Posovsky said, but he felt their relationship was meant to be.