Many were shocked when “Games of Thrones” actress Emily Clarke recently disclosed in The New Yorker that she suffered from two brain aneurysms in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Owing to her bravery and resilient spirit, her recovery was quick enough to resume normal work life within weeks of the operation.
Clarke, however, belongs to the exclusive 10 percent of survivors who recover completely after experiencing a stroke. On the other hand, 40 percent of stroke patients usually have moderate to severe impairments according to statistics published by Healthline.
Strokes are common in the U.S. as 1 in 19 deaths are caused by this. American Stroke Association’s datarevealed 795,000 Americans suffer from strokes every year. Of which, 185,000 experience recurrent attacks as reintegrating into society with motor skills intact poses a serious challenge.
Strokes are a leading cause of disability in the U.S. One of the main disabilities stroke survivors deal with is known as apraxia, which is a neurological disorder that prevents swift body movements. Other disabilities include the one-sided paralysis of the body known as hemiplegia and dysphagia, which refers to damage to part of the brain controlling swallowing.
Generally, rehabilitation and therapy help, but the field requires more research and innovation. There are a few scientists trying to come up with more novel methods of therapy using the power of technology. For instance, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the H200 Wireless Hand Rehabilitation System, which is available to purchase in commercial markets.
It is a wireless device stimulating muscles in the forearm and hand. As of now, this is the only commercially available product for the hand muscles according to this research paper reviewing devices for stroke rehabiliation for the lower limbs. On the contrary, Biomove 3000, Hand Mentor PRO, mPower 1000 and NeuroMove are other devices developed in the past that are still available to purchase.
There is more hope and promise for survivors losing feeling in their arms as extensive research is in progress. Another new device meant to be worn like a glove was developed as a prototype by researchers in Stanford University and Georgia Tech.
What is the latest prototype?
The innovation was the brainchild of a graduate student from Georgia Tech, Caitlyn Seim. She invented the glove to gently stimulate nerves for several hours a day to improve sensation in the arms and hands. The vibrating glove can be worn during normal day-to-day activities like shopping or listening to music.
Once the prototype was made, Seim showed it to her Stanford University professors to get help with further research and to eventually push the device to clinical testing. Maarten Lansberg, an associate professor of neurology, and Allison Okamura, a professor mechanical engineering at Stanford University, are on board with the project. After the glove showed positive results in pilot studies, the trio received a grant from the prestigious Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute to expand their research.
Currently, the researchers are in the process of improving the device for more comfort and accessibility before starting clinical tests again.The long-term vision is to build a device capable of helping stroke survivors restore lost function in their arms and hands.
The trio are united by a strong curiosity and passion to help stroke survivors. Lansberg had been treating stroke patients as a medical doctor, and Okamura has done research on touch-based devices with the intention to help such patients.
Seim’s interest stems from building wearable computing devices like virtual goggles and smartwatches, but she now intends to use her expertise to benefit health care and accessibility. She will be joining Stanford as a postdoctoral fellow in the fall, and she’ll continue working on the glove.