Category Archives: Medical Research

Delhi Kid with Cerebral Palsy Inspires Iron Man Style Suit for the Disabled

By Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Via Hindustan Times

Photo Courtesy: Trexo Robotics
cerebral-palsyA Delhi child with cerebral palsy inspired the development of the first commercial exoskeleton for children with disabilities by two young Indo-Canadian engineers.

Manmeet Maggu and Rahul Udasi, both 26, who first met as students of mechatronics engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, have set up the fledgling start-up, Trexo Robotics, to roll out the exoskeleton.

Maggu, born in Chandigarh, was influenced by the film Iron Man, and robotics was “a natural pull”. Initially, he looked at building an upper body exoskeleton as a side project during his years as an undergraduate.

However, his project turned personal after his Delhi-based brother Upinder’s son Praneit was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disease that greatly impairs motor function.

“I found out my nephew has cerebral palsy and he might never be able to walk. That really pushed us to consider our purpose as mechatronics engineers. And it became the motivation for us to build something for my nephew,” Maggu told Hindustan Times.

Maggu and Udasi bonded and roomed together and subsequently moved to Toronto, where Maggu completed an MBA at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management while Udasi finished a Master’s in Robotics.

Now, with an office located in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, they will formally release the device this quarter.

The two decided to build the exoskeleton around a walker that the child used in India after spending last summer at Upinder’s house in Delhi .

“Last year we watched my nephew taking his first steps using our device. It was an incredibly proud moment. It was proof of concept that showed us this can work,” Maggu said.

“Our current version is the final version that children will be able to use, while there are some features we want to add in the future,” Udasi said.

The exoskeleton and the metal and plastic-based casings for the legs are powered by batteries and help ease the process of walking for a child.

“It’s a robotic device that can provide the child with rehabilitation and mobility,” Maggu said.

Often disabled children get tired easily and develop an awkward gait. ReX is intended to address that.

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Treadmill Exercise, Electroacupuncture May Benefit Cerebral Palsy Patients, Study Suggests

Patricia Anacia, PHD

Via Cerebral Palsy News Today

Treadmill training and electroacupuncture (EA) improved behavioral recovery in rats with cerebral palsy (CP), finds a Korean study, “Comparative analysis of the beneficial effects of treadmill training and electroacupuncture in a rat model of neonatal hypoxia-ischemia,” that appeared in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine.

In premature births, immature development of the lungs leads to hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen. This damages brain structure and function, often leading to later development of CP. Researchers aimed to find out whether treadmill training and EA would have autonomous or synergistic beneficial effects on deficits caused by neonatal hypoxia-ischemia in Sprague-Dawley rats.

The team subjected the rats to hypoxia; the rats then underwent treadmill training and EA stimulation from four to eight weeks of age. In EA, a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating the acupoints. Oriental medicine widely uses this method to treat many diseases, and it’s accepted as a complementary therapy for CP and post-stroke rehabilitation.

Treadmill training has been shown to improve gross motor function in patients with CP, and is often used in rehabilitation programs to improve motor and ambulatory skills.

To determine the potential benefits of treadmill training and EA, the team analyzed the rats’ behavior through several tests – sensorimotor recovery (cylinder test), locomotor activity (open-field test), gait analysis (CatWalk), motor coordination (rotarod and hanging wire grid test) and memory (passive avoidance test).

“In the behavioral examination, markedly improved performances in the rotarod test were observed in the rats that underwent treadmill exercise, and in the rats that underwent treadmill exercise and conventional electroacupuncture compared to the untreated rats subjected to hypoxia-ischemia,” researchers wrote.

The effects of treadmill training and EA led to an increase in myelin components and the proliferation and differentiation of neuronal progenitor cells.

Overall, the team wrote, “treadmill training and EA may contribute to each autonomous beneficial effect with some synergistic effects from functional deficits through the upregulation of myelin components and neurogenesis. Thus, treatment with EA stimulation, as well as treadmill training offers another treatment option for the functional recovery in CP, and can be applied to the treatment of patients with physical disability.”

Weighing the Ethics of Artificial Wombs

Elizabeth Yuko
Photo Credit: Kevin P. Casey for The New York Times

Via The New York Times

With 3-D printing, lab-grown organs and lifelike prosthetic limbs, science creeps ever nearer to replicating the parts and functions of the human body.

But not pregnancy: Despite several attempts over the past 20 years, researchers have been largely unsuccessful at encouraging human gestation outside the womb, and important elements of the interaction between mother and fetus remain a profound mystery.

Recently, however, scientists announced that they had created an artificial womb in which lambs born prematurely grew for a month. Human testing is not expected for three to five years, if it is done at all.

But should an artificial womb succeed for premature infants, it could have far-reaching legal and ethical consequences.

The term “artificial womb” evokes a scene from “Brave New World”: external artificial uteri capable of the entire gestation process, from implantation to delivery. But that’s not what the recent animal trial accomplished, nor was that its goal.

Today, incubators sustain the life of a premature infant without continuing the gestation process. Dr. Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and his team used incubator technology to encourage continued development and growth in the premature lambs.

Dr. Flake emphasized that the goal of their work was “physiologic support” — that is, to replicate conditions in the uterus as closely as possible, keeping more premature babies alive and able to develop in better health.

People often hear about miracle babies who, despite being born prematurely and at an extremely low birth weight, overcome the odds to survive. In fact, negative outcomes are very likely among infants born before 23 weeks, the point of viability.

The mortality rate is greater than 50 percent, and they have a 70 to 90 percent likelihood of experiencing major complications, like cerebral palsy, mental impairment and blindness. Because survival rates are higher, there are now more children with health problems like these than there were a decade ago.

Even if extremely premature babies survive their time in the incubator, they may have lifelong impairments or conditions that require support, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

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