Mar 6, 2018 | By Tess

Students from Western University in Canada have designed a specialized glove that helps suppress tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease. The glove—still in its prototyping stage—was realized with the help of 3D printing technologies.

Western University student Yue Zhou wearing the 3D printed wearable

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system which usually manifests itself by affecting and compromising a person’s motor system. The disease, reportedly afflicting over six million people across the globe, has such early symptoms as slow movements, physical rigidity, and shaking or tremors.

To help this last symptom, a team of students from Western University’s Biomechatronics Laboratory Group has designed and developed a piece of wearable technology that can actually suppress tremors or other muscle contractions caused by Parkinson’s.

Led by electrical and computer engineering professor Ana Luisa Trejos, the students have been working on suppression devices for some time and have experimented with wearables that can be worn on the wrist or elbow. Ultimately, they found that these types of wearables resulted in increased shaking of the fingers, so needed another solution.

“If you have seen anybody with Parkinson’s that has tremors, they have them in their entire body but it’s the ones in their fingers that really prevent them from performing the activities of daily living,” explained Trejos, who also conducts research at the university’s Bone and Joint Institute.

“Our gloves don’t suppress all movements, which is what most other wearable tech systems do,” Trejos added. “They are either suppressing or not suppressing movement so when a person is trying to perform a specific task, the devices actually prevent them from performing the action they are trying to perform. They have to act against it. Our gloves actually allow the voluntary movement to happen and at the same time prevent the tremor from occurring.”

In other words, the 3D printed gloves do not suppress a Parkinson’s patients movements, rather they “track voluntary movement” to help the wearer complete the task they are undertaking while reducing the shaking or tremors.

Michael Naish from Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Western and Ana Luisa Trejos stand with student Yue Zhou

(Images: Western University)

The glove prototype, which is equipped with a number of 3D printed components, was customized to the hand of student Yue Zhou (who actually led the 3D printing). When the technology advances, and if there is potential to commercialize it, the researchers say the wearable can be custom-fit to each patient.

“While collecting data, we have seen first-hand that people with Parkinson’s get really frustrated when they can’t do something on their own and I feel our glove will allow them to get back to their daily living,” said Trejos. “It can be very frustrating to not be able to eat or button a shirt on your own. Or even draw. Things we take for granted. By creating a glove that allows people to perform these actions while suppressing the tremors, I think they could go back to being much more independent in their own homes for a far longer period of time.”

Trejos believes the 3D printed tremor-suppressing glove could eventually be made for under $1,000 and hopes that it will soon be brought to market.

In 2016, a high school student designed a 3D printed smart ring that could actually track and monitor Parkinson's disease symptoms.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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