Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Soft Robotic Exosuit for Parkinson’s Patients, Provides Hope and Improved Mobility

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Researchers at the Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in the United States, in conjunction with the Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, have developed a cutting-edge soft robotic wearable garment designed to significantly enhance walking for individuals battling Parkinson’s disease.

This innovative wearable device specifically targets “gait freezing,” a common and profoundly debilitating symptom associated with Parkinson’s disease. Gait freezing frequently leads to falls and significantly hampers the mobility of affected individuals. The soft robotic exosuit is strategically designed to be worn around the hips and thighs, providing gentle assistance to the hips during leg swings, thus facilitating a more extended stride while walking.

The device has demonstrated remarkable effectiveness in indoor walking trials by successfully eliminating episodes of freezing. Additionally, it allows participants to walk at an accelerated pace and cover a greater distance than they could achieve without the exosuit.

Soft Robotic Exosuit for Parkinson's Patients

Revolutionizing Mobility for Parkinson’s Patients

Conor Walsh, a professor specializing in engineering and applied sciences at SEAS and co-corresponding author of the study, emphasized the significance of their findings. He stated, “We found that just a small amount of mechanical assistance from our soft robotic apparel delivered instantaneous effects and consistently improved walking across a range of conditions for the individual in our study.”

This groundbreaking research, recently published in Nature Medicine, underscores the immense potential of soft robotics in mitigating the challenging symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In recognition of their pioneering work, SEAS and Sargent College received a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative in 2022 to further advance the development of robotics and wearable technologies.

Walsh further emphasized the collaborative effort required to achieve this milestone: “Leveraging soft wearable robots to prevent freezing of gait in patients with Parkinson’s required a collaboration between engineers, rehabilitation scientists, physical therapists, biomechanists, and apparel designers.”

Individuals afflicted with Parkinson’s often experience sudden and distressing episodes where they temporarily lose the ability to move their feet. These episodes of “gait freezing” can be frustrating and perilous, leading to an increased risk of falls and a significant decline in mobility. This innovative soft robotic exosuit promises to offer hope and improved mobility to those living with Parkinson’s disease by addressing one of its most challenging symptoms.


Resource: Medicaldevice Network, January 08, 2024

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