APG joins University of Delaware in effort to improve care for wounded warriors, civilians

January 23, 2012

The Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and the University of Delaware have entered into a cooperative research and development agreement to collaborate on an orthopedic rehabilitation project that will improve rehabilitative care for wounded warriors and civilians.

Entitled "Enhanced Locomotion for Limb Salvage Patients: Optimal Dorsiflexion Resistance Ankle-Foot Orthoses," the joint project will generate personalized rehabilitation devices (orthopedic braces) for wounded warriors who receive treatment at Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs medical treatment facilities, as well as civilians.

Kevin Wallace, branch chief of the Technology and Systems Integration Branch of the Center's Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division, has led the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and the University of Delaware partnership into fruition said of the effort: "We are very pleased and honored to collaborate with the University of Delaware on this project. Combining the expertise of their staff with our rapid manufacturing facilities and expertise made sense. It is one more way we can support the U.S. warfighter, and concurrently supporting the civilian population as well."

To accomplish this, the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division at APG and the University's College of Health Sciences will work together to create a system for developing and implementing virtual prototype modeling processes and rapid-manufacturing methods, which will lead to the fabrication of personalized and functional orthopedic braces for lower-limb rehabilitation. During the clinical execution of the project, wounded warriors will help evaluate the fit, function and comfort of the braces, made especially for them.

"The [cooperative research and development agreement to collaborate] between University of Delaware and [Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center] unites remarkable capabilities in rehabilitation science with cutting-edge technologies in free-form rapid manufacturing," said Delaware faculty member Steven Stanhope, Ph.D., who is heading the College of Health Sciences research team. "Realizing that wounded warriors will benefit from this joint effort is especially exciting and truly rewarding."

Stanhope first visited the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division when he directed the National Institutes of Health Biomechanics Laboratory several years ago. Upon joining the University of Delaware in 2007, Stanhope remembered the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division's rapid-prototyping and free-form fabrication capabilities and immediately considered Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center for the project.

The process of free-form fabrication uses a laser and plastic powder to build a custom model. Each piece is based from a computer-aided design reflecting the cross sections of the final piece. This process allows not only for a custom-fit piece, but drives the cost of a handmade orthotic down from approximately $15,000 a pair to $3,000 to $4,000 a pair.

The cooperative agreement work between the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Command and the University of Delaware is due in part to an Orthopedic Rehabilitation Clinical Consortium Award received by the University from the Department of Defense Congressional Directed Medical Research Program in early 2011. The award will assist the university in developing and implementing advanced rehabilitation technologies that restore optimal function to wounded warriors an civilians. It includes a $19.7 million defense department grant to help establish the Bridging Advanced Developments for Exceptional Rehabilitation, or BADER, Consortium—named for Royal Air Force fighter pilot Sir Douglas Bader who with the aid of prosthetics, after losing both his lower limbs in a plane crash, fought in World War II. The Consortium will be an evidence-based orthopedic rehabilitation research and care program for warfighters with musculoskeletal injuries.

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