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Colorado Surgeon, Students Design Permanent Artificial Leg

DENVER (CBS4) - A Denver surgeon has teamed up with college students to improve the lives of amputees. They are designing a permanent artificial leg.

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh was in the lab on Wednesday as they started the process. The team is working to come up with a permanent post in the leg that amputees could use to connect a prosthesis.

Woody Roseland is a seven-time cancer survivor who lost his leg to the disease. Now he is helping design a better way of living for amputees.

"It would be a game changer, really, the effects of it would be huge," Roseland said.

He is working with engineering students at the University of Denver's Human Dynamics Lab. Reflective markers on his body are tracked by infrared cameras that capture his movements in 3D. The students will use the data to design a permanent prosthesis -- a post in the bone.

"You would just attach the prosthetic leg into something that's at the end of your residual limb," Roseland said.

Developing that "something" has been a project of Dr. Ronald Hugate, an orthopedic surgeon at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center.

"We need to get the design right before we offer it, obviously," Hugate said.

Woody Roseland
Woody Roseland (credit: CBS)

In 2005 CBS4 followed Hugate's work implanting a pair of artificial legs into the bones of a Siberian husky. Because of fit and infection, they were later removed.

Others have done it in humans, but Hugate's design involves both connecting to the skeleton and using a special metal that skin and tissue will grow into.

"The benefit there is that it blocks an infection," Hugate said.

Hugate's idea would eliminate the current socket technology that can be painful and tiring. He believes for young, active people, like Roseland, his permanent prosthetic could restore function to nearly normal.

The DU students have 20 more weeks to work on the senior project. Hugate says maybe two years from now they will have a design they can actually offer to a person.

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