A 3D printed prosthetic leg from recycled materials and an app to support patients with osteoporosis are the result of pioneering biomedical engineering work from two Khalifa University researchers.
Two researchers from Khalifa University have been selected as part of MIT Technology Review Arabia’s “Innovators under 35 MENA,” which aims to honor leading innovators whose inventions or research promise to change the way people live for the better. Ghada Al Hussein, PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Dhalia Hassan, Research Assistant, were named for their biomedical engineering innovations.
Al Hussein created OsteoMentor, an end-to-end smart ecosystem to help people with osteoporosis manage their health care needs, and Hassan developed Bloom, a safe, affordable and self-adjusting design for prosthetic legs.
Al Hussein’s research focuses on developing an emotional climate recognition (ECR) system using artificial intelligence. The system relies on a novel approach to assess the emotional climate in natural dialogue between people: “Features from speech signals are fed into the system, which assesses the emotional state of the patient with osteoporosis. The app connects the emotional state with all the other medical data and can suggest better health care plans, offering more individualized support outside the clinic.”
Al Hussein focused her attention on patients over 40 years of age. “The application takes speech from people talking to the app and converts it into emotional climate prediction. Most people over 40 find it easiest to interact with the app via voice.”
She says her idea can be implemented in any digital health application, not just osteoporosis. “It can be expanded to other fields to provide more personalized and better services,” she said. “The goal is to release the app to the public free of charge, but first the plan is to engage patients from the orthopedic clinic in Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City to test the app to understand real-life interactions between the app and patients.”
Hassan’s Bloom is a 3D-printed prosthetic leg design, the first of its kind to use recyclable materials for a prosthetic costing just $20. The prosthetic is designed to fit any recipient with any length of residual limb at all amputation levels. Extensions with adjustable straps and moveable panels allow for growth, weight gain or loss, and for the user to take control personal comfort.
“Bloom is a one-size-fits-all solution allowing amputees in war-torn countries to self-fit their prosthetics rather than travel to inaccessible clinics for fittings,” Hassan said. “It’s also the first system that grows with the amputee and doesn’t need to be replaced.”
Hassan was inspired by the story of a girl and her father who both lost one of their legs as a result of the war in Syria. The girl’s father had built “prosthetic” limbs using tuna cans, plastic tubes and fabric.
“As a biomedical engineer, it is my duty to make prosthetics more accessible to people,” Hassan said. “I strongly believe in the responsibility we have to give back to the world, and I’d like to use my innovation and technology skills to deliver solutions to society.”
The Bloom design has been successfully fitted onto transfemoral amputees, giving them a comfortable and efficient gait and demonstrating a successful proof of concept for Hassan. The next stage is manufacturing larger volumes to help more people.
“The manufacturing phase is arguably the most important and critical phase,” Hassan said. “It will entail a third party collaboration to make this vision come to life by printing, packaging and delivering the prosthetics at scale.”
15 February 2023