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      Engineering Research Grant

      Dr. Jonathan Akins Receives Department of Defense Research Grant

      students with prosthetic leg

      Engineering Research Grant

      Students will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Jonathan Akins, associate professor of biomedical engineering, on research under the Department of Defense grant.

      The Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at the University of Pittsburgh and the School of Engineering at Widener University received a grant for nearly $500,000 from the Department of Defense. Of the funding, nearly $140,000 will support the research Dr. Jonathan Akins, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is doing to benefit military service members and veterans who live with limb loss and use prosthetics.

      The funding is awarded by the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity and managed by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

      Akins is collaborating with faculty at the University of Pittsburgh on the study, which seeks to improve prosthetic materials that come into contact with the skin for greater comfort, better health and improved quality of life.

      A number of individuals have been affected by secondary conditions such as pressure sores, impaired blood perfusion and injuries from accidental falls due to overheating and sweating. "These individuals cannot use their prosthetics until their wounds are healed, and thus their livelihood is affected," Akins said. "We want to help these individuals by preventing this type of injury and encourage them to wear their prosthesis for a longer period of time."

      The project will generate evidence-based practice guidance for temperature control liner technologies and allow providers to optimize care. The clinical trial will include data collection over the course of two years at both the University of Pittsburgh and Widener University.

      The research that Akins and his students will conduct will examine the use of prosthesis liners in patients to determine if liners that use phase-change material can actually regulate and reduce the user's tendency to sweat.

      "There are already commercially available liners that use phase-change materials," Akins said. "This double-blinded study will collect data from individuals that use conventional liners and phase-change material liners to see if they experience a difference in prosthesis utilization, physical performance, and quality of life."

      According to Akins, "This is a tremendous opportunity for students at Widener and myself to have the ability to make an impact on a product that likely has the potential to reduce injuries among prosthetics users."

      Carlee Moran, '19, a biomedical engineering student is just one of the students that has the opportunity to work with Akins on research projects like this. Moran, who was interested in studying prosthetics, started research with Akins as a freshman. She is currently focusing on weight distribution between the prosthetic foot and the sound foot.

      "It's really rewarding to do independent research like this," she said. "We get to do the data collection and Dr. Akins gives us guidance along the way."

      In January Akins also received the Justus Lehmann Grant Award from the Foundation for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation to investigate the turn-specific biomarkers from body-worn sensors during turning gait in lower-limb prosthesis users in collaboration with Dr. Brad Tucker, in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania.


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