In Iceland, the orthopaedics company Össur is doing some ground-breaking work developing new technologies for people living with limb loss. Dr. Þorvaldur Ingvarsson, Össur’s Executive VP, discusses the role of research for a better quality of life and changing the perception of people with disabilities.
Climbing stairs, walking backwards, riding a bike or stepping over small obstacles – we normally don’t spend too much time thinking about how complex some of the movements we perform on a daily basis actually are.
Watching a patient who had his right leg amputated at the thigh after a car accident demonstrate a knee prosthesis by Össur, it becomes clear just how many fine details make up the simplest motions.
Össur is a producer of non-invasive orthopaedics, headquartered in Reykjavik, Iceland, and manufactures some of the most advanced lower limb attachments on the market.
“We are developing solutions that allow people to live their lives without limitations. Mobility is key to independence”, says Dr. Þorvaldur Ingvarsson, Executive VP of research and development at Össur Iceland.
“Our goal is to design prosthetics and orthotics for people of all ages that can be matched to individual needs and are as close to human extremities as possible”, he explains.
There are a significant number of people living with limb loss due to illness or injury worldwide. In Germany alone, around 60,000 amputations are carried out every year. A lot of research is going into new technology that allows increased freedom of movement without the common side effects of chronic hip- or back pain, muscle tiredness and increasing passivity.
A EUR 50 million loan from NIB is co-financing Össur’s 2016–2019 R&D programme.
“Our ongoing investments in research and innovation have been crucial for the company’s growth. We are working together with individuals, clinicians and diverse communities from around the world to support a better quality of life.”
In 2015, Össur first unveiled a bionic lower-limb prosthesis that is almost subconsciously controlled by the wearer, thanks to chips that are implanted into the remaining muscle tissue and translate electronic nerve impulses to the prosthesis. This technology is still in the testing phase.
“Bionic solutions are arguably the most significant advance to date in the orthopaedic industry. The technology allows not only for adaptation to a specific movement, but also to intuitive actions”, explains Dr. Invarsson. “We are getting closer to developing prostheses that are fully responsive to the user.”
In order to reach a wider range of customers and to offer a complete bionic portfolio, Össur acquired Touch Bionics, a provider of upper limb prostheses and supporting devices, in 2016.
“Touch Bionics produces advanced arm and hand solutions, as well as passive functional prostheses that match the natural appearance of the wearer. These include products that set new standards, such as partial hand prostheses for people who have lost fingers.”
“Together, we expect to further develop lighter and stronger orthotics and prosthetics in the coming years. We are also looking into reducing material usage and waste, and into improving recycling”, says Dr. Ingvarsson. “There is a need to make the industry more sustainable.”
Össur manufactures limb attachments that make even high-performance sport possible again. This is reflected in “Team Össur”, a group of fifteen international athletes and world-record holders who use Össur products.
“Our athletic community won 26 medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in Brazil. We also had the opportunity to participate in the first ever Cybathlon in Switzerland last year, showcasing how people who have lost limbs tackle daily challenges with the help of modern technology.”
“Each person has the ability to motivate and influence others, and plays an important role in raising public awareness of the true potential of people with disabilities in their communities”, Dr. Ingvarsson concludes.
Executive Vice-President of Research & Development at Össur Iceland
Össur is a global leader in non-invasive orthopaedics headquartered in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Photo: Össur Iceland
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