Oscar the bionic cat

by Matthew Cobb

In Jerry’s absence in Portland, I thought this story had to feature, even though it’s not yet Caturday anywhere in the world. Featured on the BBC website, and based on a BBC documentary to be broadcast next week, this is the story of Oscar the cat, who had his back feet severed by a combine harvester.

A vet called Noel Fitzpatrick, working with a team led by Professor Gordon Blunn from University College London, was able to graft metal pegs (intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics or “Itaps”) into Oscar’s stumps. This was the key step forward, which might have important consequences for treatment of human amputees. As the BBC website records:

Mr Fitzpatrick explained: “The real revolution with Oscar is [that] we have put a piece of metal and a flange into which skin grows into an extremely tight bone.”

“We have managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an ‘exoprosthesis’ that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal’s limbs to give him effectively normal gait.”

Professor Blunn told BBC News the idea was initially developed for patients with amputations who have a “stump socket”.

“This means they fix their artifical limb with a sock, which fits over the stump. In a lot of cases this is sucessful, but you [often] get rubbing and pressure sores.”

The Itap technology is being tested in humans and has already been used to create a prosthetic for a woman who lost her arm in the July 2005 London bombings.

The final step was to design artificial paws that could help Oscar move around. These were developed by engineers at the University of Salford. The result was a great success, and Oscar was soon wandering around the vet’s surgery.

An extended video can be found on the BBC website, but is only visible to UK readers. The following brief YouTube clip from BBC news has been posted, but may disappear as it’s not on the BBC’s news channel…

UPDATE. The link provided above by Matthew to the BBC site does work for USA (and perhaps other) readers. Jerry asked me to repost the link here, so people would readily know it works. GCM

5 Comments

  1. Posted June 25, 2010 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    This is wonderful.

    Of course it is an enormous expense to do this for a cat (yes, I love them, but still) but these techniques will no doubt help humans, too.

  2. Ian
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    When I read this in this morning’s paper and then saw it on the news I new that it would appear on here.

    Great veterinary skills and the moggy looks happy as well.

  3. Posted June 25, 2010 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    I’m thinking of all the other combine harvester victims this could help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6mCUoRYN3Y

  4. Posted June 25, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    The BBC video is available in the USA– I just watched it.

  5. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Happycat is happy … also probably going.

    And no, the “UK … only” video works [Sweden].

    Though, infuriatingly, the article is one of those who fumbles the ball. You can’t get it out of the article, but they are still developing ITAP as a technology; it works, but is improvable; which is what they need the test subjects for. What you do get is that this animal was a PR opportunity. :-~


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