The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has awarded approximately $8.2 million to three research projects: a prosthetic hand controlled by the nervous system, robotic clothing that aids in walking and biosensors which monitor patients’ use of equipment or exercise during rehabilitation.
Newcastle University, University of Bristol and the University of Warwick will begin projects in the spring along with 15 other United Kingdom universities. Research began after the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) devised a creative workshop program known as a sandpit.
“These research studies will improve patients’ lives, allow greater independence and benefit patients with a wide range of mobility and coordination difficulties,” Phillip Nelson, PhD, FREng, chief executive of EPSRC stated in a press release. “With the UK’s aging populating and a rise in disabilities, this highlights one area of EPSRC investment in health care research which has a national impact.”
Newcastle University has received $2.2 million to develop a prosthetic hand that gives patients a sense of feedback. The prosthetic fingertips will have a realistic sense of touch, including pressure, shear and temperature. The system will stimulate the nervous system to help the amputee control the hand.
The University of Bristol has received $3.1 million to develop soft robotic clothing to help patients with disabilities and age-related weakness to move easily and unaided and have the possibility to live independently. This clothing will have control systems that monitor the wearer and work with their own muscles. Users can avoid falls with the strong support provided by the smart clothing and reduce need for assistance.
The University of Warwick has received $2.9 million to design cheap, disposable biosensors, such as temporary tattoos or a smart watch, that can be used by those who are wheelchair bound, patients in rehabilitation or use prostheses. This technology will collect data and monitor a patient’s use of equipment and measure how they follow exercise instructions at home.
“The new information we will gain from this research will be invaluable, and through a feasibility study, it is our aim to produce a system ready for future technical/clinical trials within the National Health Service,” Christopher James, PhD, project lead and professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Warwick, stated.