New neuro-robotic arm could aid stroke patients

A startup company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is aiming to improve the lives of stroke patients with a new invention four years in the making: a neuro-robotic arm brace that helps patients improve lost motor function in their arms.

Dubbed the mPower 1000, the product was developed by a 12-person startup called Myomo, Inc. The company aims to debut the device's capabilities at the American Occupational Therapy Association annual conference and expo in Philadelphia, April 14-17.

The device fits like a sleeve on a person's arm, and features "sensors that sit on the skin's surface and detect even a very faint muscle signal," according to the company's latest announcement. The brain sends a signal to the muscle, and the mPower 1000 kicks into action, providing motorized assistance. Over time, the product can help people relearn how to move affected muscles, and therapy can begin at any point post-stroke, even 20 years later, according to the company.

The US Food and Drug Administration cleared the product for home and clinical use, and the company is targeting patients suffering arm mobility impairment from strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and traumatic brain injuries.

The device is deemed portable and "super light" at 1lb 14 oz (.846 kg). Myomo plans to market the mPower 1000 for in-home use, complete with a structured program, smartphone app, and video game mechanics - and the Bluetooth-enabled device connects to a Web portal so physicians can keep tabs on a patient's progress.

The mPower 1000 sells for $5,250, compared to $80,000 for stationary rehabilitation devices commonly found in hospitals. So far, Myomo is drumming up interest with partnerships with hospitals and clinics around Boston, Chicago, and Southern California, as well as Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Pairing stroke patients with virtual reality tools such as motion-tracking video games, robotic gloves and 3D googles to retrain the brain and enhance mobility isn't a new concept, and robotics engineers have been scrambling to develop better, more streamlined methods for years. Another competing product announced earlier this month is the Biomedical Sensor Glove, developed by four US engineering undergraduate students for a startup company called Jintronix Inc. Like the mPower 1000, this glove is designed for at-home usage with minimal supervision from physicians. While still in development, it is cited as costing around $1,000 (€688) to produce, according to a press announcement.

Read more about the mPower 1000: http://www.myomo.com

Watch a demo of the mPower 1000: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DDo1g0vtlM

 

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