NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Remember the bionic hand that Luke Skywalker got in one of the Star Wars movies? Modern medicine is coming closer to making science fiction a reality.

Smart limbs being developed at MIT are possible because of the Ewing amputation, reports CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

The procedure developed between MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital protects the nerves and muscles so the limb can continue to communicate with the brain.

“When we did our first human patient and we put the bionic limb on him, and we saw natural movements emerged, emerging through the mechatronics in natural ways, it was truly exhilarating,” said MIT professor Hugh Herr.

Herr helped develop the surgery and is leading development of the robotic limbs. He’s also a double amputee himself.

“It’s sort of like an extension of your body,” said Rebecca Mann, a Ewing amputee who tried out the robotic leg. “Pretending I’m pointing and flexing my foot and I feel my foot pointing and flexing.”

Brandon Korona injured his leg in Afghanistan and became the first veteran to have the Ewing amputation.

“Being able to kind of have something that I can control with my mind still even though my foot is not there. it kind of brings everything full circle,” said Korona.

He’s now training to run the Boston Marathon in 2020, and this September, Rebecca and Brandon ran the Falmouth Road Race with fellow amputee Tammy Jerome.

“We pushed each other to do it,” said Jerome.

This group was brought together though The Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation at Brigham by the family of marathon bombing survivor Gillian Reny.

“It’s a wonderful experience to put a robot on their leg and they walk away and start crying or laughing,” said Herr.

The grants awarded by Stepping Strong are part of what made the Ewing amputation possible, paving the way for the future of prosthetics.    Send article as PDF