Researchers developing soft robotic glove for post-stroke hand rehabilitation

Researchers are developing a soft robotic glove that can open and close a patient’s hand to provide relief for stroke victims

The project is led by Muthu Wijesundara, PhD, University of Texas Arlington Research Institute (UTARI) principal research scientist, through the university’s Texas Medical Research Collaborative in Fort Worth.

Wijesundara and University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) researchers Rita Patterson, PhD, Nicoleta Bugnariu, PT, PhD, and Timothy Niacaris, PhD, MD, won a $99,000 grant to move the glove prototype into a clinical setting. UTARI researchers will continue development of the device while UNTHSC collaborators will evaluate its safety and usability.

“Part of the focus in this development is to create a portable and independent system, capable of applying therapy without the constant supervision of a therapist,” Wijesundara said in a press release.

Muthu Wijesundara, left, and Mahdi Haghshenas-Jaryani, both of University of Texas Arlington Research Institute, work on the robotic glove that would help rehabilitate post-stroke patients. The research is being done in collaboration with the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Source: UTARI


Current commercial devices made to improve the hand are based on conventional, rigid robotics and often include exoskeleton structures, according to the release. These devices often are mechanically complex, costly, large and heavy. In contrast, the soft robotic approach utilizes inflatable structures considered less complex, less expensive and safer. However, currently no commercial options exist for soft robotics on the rehabilitation market.

“If continuous passive motion devices can be used to apply hand opening and closing motions starting early in the rehabilitation process, it would immensely benefit the standard care of stroke patients and improve their long-term functional abilities and quality of life,” Bugnariu, a UNTHSC associate professor of physical therapy, said.

The UTARI glove makes use of a hybrid soft-and-rigid pneumatic actuator, a design that offers a low operating pressure, easy fabrication, a lightweight structure and individual control of joints. Its flexible nature allows the glove to be adapted to various medical conditions and anatomical features.


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