Man Climbs Chicago Skyscraper with Bionic Leg

CHICAGO (AP) -- A 31-year-old amputee has made history, becoming the first person to climb 103 floors of one of the world's tallest skyscrapers with a bionic leg.

Zac Vawter was wearing a prosthetic leg controlled by neural activity Sunday when he participated in "SkyRise Chicago." The charity event raises funds for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The event marked the bionic leg's first test in the public eye. USA Today's Janice Lloyd reports more specifics about how the leg works. In her online report Lloyd writes, "When Vawter's surgeon removed his leg, he transplanted nerve cells from the lower leg to his hamstring. Sensors attached on the skin near those nerves communicate information to the bionic leg's microprocessor."

A very simplistic way to describe the process is like this: as Vawter thought about climbing stairs, the motors, chains and belts in his leg synchronized the movements of its ankle and knee.

Researchers cheered him on and noted the smart leg's performance. Institute officials say the leg and its climber held up "fantastically." Vawter finished the climb in about 45 minutes.


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