The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Michigan Chapter has announced the 2008 Spirit of da Vinci Award winner: MIT Professor Hugh Herr. The Spirit of da Vinci Award is presented annually to an individual for their courage, perseverance and creative use of assistive technology.

Professor Hugh Herr lost both legs below the knee at age 17 in a climbing accident and went on to develop an interest in the invention of "smart" prostheses for the disabled. Today Herr is the director of The Biomechatronics Research Group in the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on technologies that promise to merge body and machine, including designs that resemble the body's muscle and skeleton.

``We build artificial limbs, robotic limbs that wrap around impaired ones, and we think about technology that augments healthy limbs, making them more efficient," says Herr. ``An amputee can think, contract muscles, and directly control the artificial leg. It's a blend between the body and a synthetic device," he continues.

Prof. Herr's research accomplishments in science and technology have already made a significant impact in the marketplace. A Variable-Damper Knee Prosthesis called the Rheo has recently been commercialized by former da Vinci Awardee, Ossur Inc., and is now benefiting amputees throughout the world. Prof. Herr has also developed the world's first powered ankle-foot prosthesis the actually propels the amputee forward with each step, emulating the strength and power of an intact human ankle. In addition, an Active Ankle-Foot Orthosis is nearing commercialization, and has the potential for improving the quality of life of millions of stroke patients within the U.S. alone.

Herr's work has been seen in various national and international media, including Scientific American Frontiers, Technology Review, National Geographic, and the History Channel.

The 2008 da Vinci Awards®, presented by the UAW-GM, will be held Saturday, September 20 at The Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn, Mich. The gala event (black tie optional) features a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, entertainment, awards program and an afterglow with the da Vinci Awardees. For tickets, sponsorship opportunities and information visit:

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