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Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics unveils new advancements in LUKE arm prosthesis

  • Next Step President Matthew Albuquerque (right) shows the first osseo-integrated LUKE arm, this one fitted for Junius Moore on Wednesday. NICK STOICOMonitor staff

  • Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics President Matthew Albuquerque shows the first osseointegrated LUKE arm, this one fitted for Junius Moore whose left arm was amputated following a car crash in 2016. Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics President Matthew Albuquerque shows the first osseointegrated LUKE arm, this one fitted for Junius Moore whose left arm was amputated following a car crash in 2016. Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Dean Kamen, an engineer whose company DEKA Research and Development designed LUKE arm, speaks at a press conference at Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics in Manchester on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 12/12/2018 6:02:22 PM

As he watched his son demonstrate how his newly fitted LUKE arm works in front of news reporters and television cameras, Gregory Moore stood off to the side taking it all in.

In the summer of 2016, his son Junius survived a violent car crash in their home state of North Carolina. Junius, who is 35 and owns two restaurants in Wilmington, N.C., was making an early-morning commute to work during his busiest time of year when he fell asleep and veered off the road at 65 mph and crashed into the back of a parked garbage truck.

Junius suffered serious injuries and doctors had to amputate his left arm above the elbow. He said Wednesday that it took 45 minutes for emergency responders to extract him from the car.

Two years later, after a lot of research and travel and months of debating with his insurance provider, Junius has an arm again, or at least the closest thing that today’s technology can provide to replicate the motion and effectiveness of a functioning arm.

From that July morning in 2016 to Wednesday morning in Manchester’s Med-Tech Millyard, Gregory smiled as he reflected on his son’s journey.

“He looked so sad in the hospital. I’ve never seen anyone look so sad,” he said. “And to see him smile, it’s all a dad can ask for after all that.”

All Moore has to do to make the LUKE arm work is think about it, something that most people take for granted as they reach for a glass or shake someone’s hand.

“I can integrate this into my life,” said Moore, who has a 7-year-old son and another child on the way. “I have to continue working on the control part; there’s going to be a learning process in training my muscles in how to give those clear signals to the arm.”

Wednesday’s press conference at the offices of Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics in Manchester unveiled the latest development around the LUKE arm. Initially designed using socket technology, Moore’s LUKE arm is actually integrated into his anatomy through a rod that runs directly into his bone.

The technology is the first of its kind, an osseo-integrated LUKE arm combined with post-targeted muscle reinnervation. That basically means Moore can control the arm using muscle movements in the remaining limb, thanks to two key surgeries he underwent after losing his arm.

The first came in 2017, about nine months after the crash. Moore traveled west and received targeted muscle reinnervation surgery by Dr. Albert Chi of Oregon Health Science University. The operation effectively rewired the nerves that once controlled Moore’s hands and arm to control a prosthesis.

Moore was then fitted with a LUKE arm using socket technology, but it didn’t meet the demands of his daily life. He wanted something that would allow him to do more and could handle the heat of a restaurant kitchen.

To reach that level, Moore had to leave the country for an operation currently not sanctioned in the U.S. He traveled to Australia and underwent osseo-integration surgery by Dr. Munjed Al Muderis, an orthopedic surgeon and lecturer in Sydney. The procedure inserts a rod into the bone and serves as an anchor for the prosthesis, increasing the patient’s freedom of movement.

The rod comes out at the end of Moore’s stump and docks directly into the LUKE arm. The job for Next Step was to develop that docking system. Their work resulted in a comprehensive system that appeared easy enough for Moore to click in and out of.

Moore hopes to see osseo-integration surgery become available in the U.S. soon. While he went through three operations to reach this point, including his amputation surgery, Moore said Muderis typically can conduct all three operations at once.

“They do a lot of medical tourism for amputees,” Moore said. “He’s done over 500 (osseo-intergration surgeries) total, and more than 100 of these for North Americans alone. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to do it here.”

It’s technology that Moore did not know existed at the outset of this process. Now, he hopes others find out that more options are available for amputees.

The hard part is getting insurance to cover it. This LUKE arm costs about $200,000, and Moore had to fight his insurance provider all the way to the North Carolina Department of Insurance before the agency forced the company to cover it.

The LUKE arm was developed by Manchester-based DEKA Research and Development, founded by Dean Kamen, an engineer from Bedford known for inventing the Segway and the first portable insulin pump. The development is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and is being manufactured commercially by Mobius Bionics.

“This is proof that at the intersection of medicine, engineering, policy, regulatory, you can really make great things happen,” Kamen said.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321 or nstoico@cmonitor.com.)

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