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Cancer Survivor Gets New Knee

Cyrano is a tough cancer survivor who came to NC State for surgery to replace a disease-ravaged knee.

He’s also a 10-year-old tabby cat.

This pioneering feline and a team of NC State surgeons and engineers are transforming the field of prosthetic implants for both pets and humans.

In a six-hour, first-of-its-kind surgery, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little replaced Cyrano’s damaged knee with an osseointegrated implant that will allow him the same range of motion and freedom as his own knee would. After a three-to-four-month recovery, Cyrano should be back to his old mouse-catching habits.

Marcellin-Little and industrial and systems engineer Dr. Ola Harrysson are pioneers in osseointegration, a process that fuses a prosthetic limb with an animal’s (or human’s) bones. Osseointegration creates a strong, permanent bond between living bone and the titanium implant, which is anchored into the bone—similar to the way an artificial tooth is anchored into the jaw. The result is a prosthetic limb that acts more like a natural limb.

Cyrano is not the first patient the team has treated – Marcellin-Little and Harrysson began their partnership in 2005 with a cat named George Bailey, who was born without the lower half of his hind legs.

Since George Bailey’s successful treatment, they have continued to refine and strengthen the design as well as streamline the manufacturing process for these custom-made implants for both dogs and cats. NC State is the only university in the world with colleges of engineering and veterinary medicine that can design, manufacture and surgically implant custom prosthetics for veterinary patients.

While Cyrano’s case was unique, Marcellin-Little hopes that this surgery will pave the way toward making feline knee replacements more commonly available.

“This collaboration between NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering, and outside implant designers and manufacturers allows us to design and make implants that we could only dream of in the past,” Marcellin-Little said. “I am sure that this technology will help other patients with tumors in the future.”

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