The University of Arkansas' Institute for Integrative & Innovative Research, also known as I3R, has been awarded a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to expand a clinical trial for an innovative neural-enabled prosthesis project.
The grant will add Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, as a second clinical trial site. In a news release, the university said the second clinical site is a "significant milestone" for the trial as it grows into a more complex multi-site clinical trial.
Researchers at I3R developed a neural-enhanced prosthetic hand that restores meaningful sense of touch to amputees. So far, two people have received transplants. Neurosurgeon Dr. Erika Petersen, who performed the second procedure on a patient in Arkansas, has said the technology opens the door to a new era of augmenting human functionality.
Collaboration with Walter Reed is expected to significantly advance the institute's work. The medical center is home to one of the nation's premier clinics for patients with amputations and is one of just three military hospitals that treat traumatic upper extremity amputations. Walter Reed lab will operate independently, but it will work closely with I3R and the institute will retain leadership and oversight of the overall research study.
The clinical trial seeks to test the prosthetic hand system approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for investigation, according to the release. The system has the potential to deliver meaningful sensations of touch, grip force and hand opening to the user.
The current trial is under the U.S. Army Office of Human Research Oversight. The grant to expand the trial was awarded through the Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program.
“We’ve seen the groundbreaking research that is being performed by I3R and are very excited to offer this potential life-changing intervention to our U.S. service members with limb loss,” Dr. Paul Pasquina, principal investigator at the Uniformed Services University and Walter Reed National Medical Center, said in a statement.