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Swiss students offer hope to landmine victims

The new Swiss designs should give hope to Cambodia’s amputees

(Keystone)

Landmine victims in Cambodia may soon benefit from a new type of artificial limb designed by Swiss science students.

The new design - suitable for both adults and children - is lighter than existing prostheses, making it easier for victims to walk.

The artificial limb project is the brainchild of Johan Müller, dean of the Mechanical Engineering Faculty at the University of Applied Sciences in Aargau.

Müller - who came up with the idea after a visit to Cambodia - realized that some of the prostheses being produced in the country were very heavy.

He asked his students to see if the prostheses could be made lighter by using fibre-reinforced plastics - all the while ensuring that the limbs were just as stable and durable as the ones currently in use.

Design advantages

According to Müller - whose research is funded by the Minex project in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - there are two main advantages to the new design.

"Number one is that the prosthesis is lighter, so it makes it easier for the victims to walk," Müller told swissinfo.

"The second thing is that we have developed a technique which could also be used by the prosthesis factory in Cambodia."

Müller does not expect the artificial limbs to be any cheaper than the present designs, but says it is crucial that the prostheses should be available free of charge to those who really need them - the mine victims.

Benefits for children

Müller says that children in particular will benefit from the new prototypes.

"Both grown-ups and children will profit from the new prostheses, but they will primarily benefit children because they need a prosthesis every year or so as they grow."

The designs are currently being tested by the ICRC - initially on machines and later on people.

If all goes according to plan, Müller expects the artificial limbs to be ready for use within the next few months.

Müller and his university team already have plans to expand on their designs.

"We want to improve the knees, but that's a little bit down the line. We first want to evaluate what we've been doing so far and then progress from there."

swissinfo, Isobel Johnson and Morven McLean

In brief

A new type of artificial limb designed by students at the University of Applied Sciences in Aargau may help Cambodian landmine victims.

The new design is lighter, making it easier for victims to walk and is suitable for both adults and children.

The design is currently being tested by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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