When Oscar the cat lost both his hind paws in a farming accident, it was feared he’d have to trundle around in one of those wheeled-cat apparatuses. But Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic veterinary surgeon in Surrey, pioneered a groundbreaking technique instead, installing weight-bearing bone implants to create a bionic kitty.
Custom-engineered metal implants — called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (ITAPs) — are fastened directly to Oscar’s little ankle bones, inside his fuzzy little legs. From there they protrude directly through the skin and fur, using a biomimicking design inspired by the way that deer’s antlers anchor to bone and then extend out through the skin. Prosthetic paws attach to the ends of the implants and let Oscar (no relation to Oscar Pistorius) walk normally.
“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,” Fitzpatrick told BBC News.
“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.”
According to the BBC report, ITAP technology is being tested in humans, including a woman who lost an arm in the 2005 London bombings.