A Soft Robot Hand for Neural Rehabilitation of Degenerative Neurological Diseases and Strokes

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A Soft Robot Hand for Neural Rehabilitation of Degenerative Neurological Diseases and Strokes
 

 

Degenerative neurological diseases and strokes affect the patients' motor function, bringing a great psychological and economic burden to patients and their families. In many such cases, patients may lose their hand motor ability, and whether partial or total, this can greatly inhibit activities of daily living.

Improving hand function requires repetitive task practice rehabilitation, which involves breaking a task down into individual movements and practicing these exercises (typically with an occupational therapist) to improve hand strength, accuracy, and range of motion. Clinical studies have shown that stroke patients who have robotic assistance when performing intense repetitive movements demonstrate significant improvement in hand motor functions. However, existing robotic rehabilitation systems are typically expensive and are designed for in-clinic use as they are generally not portable. Moreover, the majority of these robotic devices require experienced oversight for patient safety.

A research team in HKU led by Dr Yong Hu, Associate Professor of the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, has developed a soft robot hand for patients suffering from degenerative neurological diseases or strokes. It is a user-friendly rehabilitation tool, which is safe and adaptively fitting for human hand function rehabilitation.

Characteristics: 

  • Bionics design concept, using the mechanical structure imitation of muscles, tendons and other biological tissue
  • Lightweight glove, no obvious load on user's hand
  • Compact system, portability
  • Easy to wear and use, high comfortability
  • Using pneumatic driver with high security, avoiding secondary damage
  • Multiple exercise patterns available, allowing an appropriate pattern according to the patient’s condition (motion amplitude and intensity adjustable)

Our new soft robot hand has been designed as an extra light-weight wearable robotic glove that allows motion smoothness and user safety, compared to the existing robotic glove. Patients can use it to carry out rehabilitation exercises at home. This would make physical therapy more accessible and affordable, reducing challenges with patient compliance.

Our soft robot hand can further improve neuroplasticity with a gentle intensity rehabilitation and is effective in managing spasm and improving muscle power. The ultimate goal is to bring patients better quality of life as the research team believes improvement of hand function is a key to help patients’ activities of daily living.