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YOUR HEALTH: New artificial limbs could be a godsend for growing children

Researchers are testing 3-D printed artificial limbs for children who quickly outgrow conventional prosthetics.

ORLANDO, Florida – Ask any parent about the cost of their child's growing pains.

But parents of children who need artificial limbs can face far more daunting costs as their child outgrows their arms or legs.

Most bionic prosthetics for amputees cost at least $10,000.   Pair that with a constantly growing child and most parents of children with congenital limb difference can't even consider a robotic arm.

A team that began at the University of Central Florida is working to change that.

Albert Manero was tinkering with prosthetics at his kitchen table when the family of seven year old Alex Ping asked for help creating a full bionic arm.

Manero and his fellow engineering students took on the challenge, creating a 3-D printed robotic arm for Alex.

"After the first video aired it went all the way around the world. and we started receiving the same information from so many families saying that their child too needed some of that 3-D hope," who is now the president of a company called Limbitless Solutions.

The non-profit Limbitless Solutions was born, providing 3-D printed limbs to 20 patients so far at no cost to the families thanks to generous sponsors.

CLINICAL TRIAL:   A clinical trial is underway to make FDA approval and insurance coverage an option.   Researchers partnered with Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon for the first pilot program involving 20 kids.   Those children receive one of the newest bionic arms made.   Then there's an assessment period over the course of a year to assess both the quality of life impact as well as the effectiveness of the arm for the children.

Engineers partnered with video designers to develop fun games to train children with their prosthetics.  The arms have built-in sensors to move the many hand motors.

"The arms are actually controlled when the children flex their muscles," explained Manero.

That's not the only reason kids are loving their arms.

"They want it to be bold, colorful, creative, it changed the conversion before people would come up and ask what's wrong with you and now they change it to 'Wow, that's such a cool arm. Where can I get one?'", said Mrudula Peddinto, Limbitless Solutions' marketing director.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.