I³R, UAMS and Health Tech Industry Collaborate to Deliver Innovation for Impact

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I³R) at the University of Arkansas is collaborating with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and health technology companies and providers on a groundbreaking neural-enhanced prosthesis study, one that has the potential to deliver meaningful sensations of touch, grip force and hand opening to users.

James Abbas, Ph.D., who is co-directing the study, led discussions that have brought a team of UAMS surgeons, Snell Prosthetics and Orthotics and health technology companies together with I³R’s Adaptive Neural Systems Group (ANS).

“Innovation in health care requires coordination and integration across disciplines and sectors. We are thrilled to have established partnerships with UAMS and Snell to innovate here in Arkansas,” said Abbas, professor of biomedical engineering and member of the ANS Group. “The world-class surgeons at UAMS will help I³R extend the reach of integrative health throughout the state and beyond, and will enhance our ability to develop and deploy breakthrough neural technology to the benefit of many people.”

UAMS surgeons working with the ANS Group to support the study, “Neural Enabled Prosthesis for Upper Limb Amputees,” are:

  • Erika Petersen, M.D., a professor and director of the Section of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery in the College of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery
  • John Bracey, M.D., assistant professor and hand and nerve specialist in the College of Medicine Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Mark Tait, M.D., associate professor and hand and nerve specialist in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Abbas also holds a joint appointment with UAMS in the Department of Neurosurgery.

“UAMS’ partnership with I³R is a major opportunity to take a whole new direction in innovation and significantly advance how we help people regain their physical capabilities,” Petersen said. “It’s my honor to be working with Dr. Jung and Dr. Abbas, and I am very grateful that they were able to identify a partnership and to trust me to lead the surgical team.”

“This is UAMS’ first surgical collaboration with the University of Arkansas, and we are very excited to be part of it,” Tait said. “We do a lot of prosthetic work with amputees, and the idea of being part of something that could give amputees sensation is incredibly meaningful.”

Bracey added: “In the prosthetic world, the concept of creating sensation with a neural-enabled prosthesis is something we talk about with our colleagues, so it’s really exciting and a privilege to be involved in actually doing that now.”

The collaboration is being facilitated by the Translational Research Institute at UAMS, which is supported by a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to accelerate the pace of health innovations (grant UL1 TR003107).

“The collaboration with I³R’s groundbreaking ANS Group, Snell Prosthetics and the brilliant surgeons at UAMS will advance this cutting-edge research and life-improving technology,” said Terry Martin, U of A provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Working together, we will serve the people of Arkansas and advance health care.”

The team at Snell in Fayetteville is providing clinical support to fit the prosthetic socket and hand for each participant. Snell’s network of clinics across the state are working with team members at I³R and UAMS to inform people with amputation about the study and identify eligible candidates.

“We are very excited in this collaboration with I³R and UAMS,” said Jeremy Crowell, vice president of clinical operations at Snell Prosthetics and Orthotics. “Snell has always been an early adopter of new technology, and this is one of the most innovative research opportunities we have come across in a long time to help improve lives.”

“This collaboration lays the foundation for I³R to serve as a driver of integrated health throughout Arkansas and the region,” said Ranu Jung, Ph.D., who co-directs the study with Abbas and is executive director and endowed chair of I³R, associate vice chancellor and distinguished professor of biomedical engineering. “Our approach recognizes the multiple physiological, social and environmental factors at play in addressing whole health — one that utilizes a holistic and integrative strategy to produce impactful solutions that are deployable at scale.”

Grants to the U of A from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (grant R01 EB023261) and the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity of the Department of Defense (grant W81XWH1910839) are supporting the clinical trial (NCT03432325) and the team at I³R which includes research faculty, scientists, postdoctoral scholars and biomedical engineering doctoral students, and the collaboration with UAMS, Snell and partnering companies.

The clinical trial is open and recruiting participants with amputations below the elbow. . Contact: [email protected], or 479-718-2390.

About I³R: The Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research brings together thought leaders and change-makers to create innovative solutions to wicked problems. We discover, develop, deliver and deploy at scale to produce meaningful societal impact that improves quality of life and promotes economic development. Learn more at i3r.uark.edu.

About UAMS: UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,240 students, 913 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 11,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or . Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.


James Abbas, professor of biomedical engineering
Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research

Leslie W. Taylor, vice chancellor of communications and marketing
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
501-686-8998, [email protected]