People with Mobility Issues Set to Benefit from Wearable Devices

The lives of thousands of people with mobility issues could be transformed thanks to ground-breaking research by scientists at the University of Bristol. The FREEHAB project will develop soft, wearable rehabilitative devices with a view to helping elderly and disabled people walk and move from sitting to a standing position in comfort and safety.

Led by University of Bristol Professor of Robotics Jonathan Rossiter, FREEHAB builds on discoveries from his previous Right Trousers project, which saw his team develop new soft materials that could be used like artificial muscles.

Professor Rossiter said: "There are over 10.8 million disabled people living in the UK today. Nearly 6.5 million have mobility impairments. These numbers are growing as the median population age increases and age-related mobility issues due to conditions such as arthritis and stroke become more prevalent."

Rehabilitation is vital for patients, but according to Professor Rossiter, outcomes are hampered by a lack of easy-to-use dynamic tools to help therapists accurately analyse mobility performance and devise effective programmes; and as rehabilitation increasingly takes place in patients' homes in the absence of a therapist, better ways to support in-home mobility and training are needed.

The materials from which the artificial muscles are made include 3D-printable electroactive gel materials, and soft but strong pneumatic chains that change shape when inflated and can exert considerable force.

Professor Rossiter said: "Together with integrated sensing technology, we will make devices that physiotherapists can use to accurately pinpoint limitations in their patients' movements, thus enabling them to plan personalised training programmes.

"We will also make simpler devices that the patient can use to enhance their mobility activities and exercise with confidence when a therapist is not with them."

To develop the project, the researchers will work with physiotherapists in the NHS and private practice, and with people who have undergone physiotherapy for their mobility problems.

Following research and development, the aim is to conduct clinical trials and then bring the devices into the supply chain once the project is over.

The three-year FREEHAB project, due to start in September, has received £1,162,224 funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Philippa Hemmings, head of Healthcare Technologies at EPSRC: said: "The work supported within the FREEHAB project will increase the ability of physiotherapists to support people with mobility impairments. It shows the power of engineers and physical scientists working in collaboration with partners, something our Healthcare Impact Partnership awards were set up to support."

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By investing in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future UK prosperity by contributing to a healthy, connected, resilient, productive nation.

Most Popular Now

Sanofi and Google to Develop New Healthc…

Sanofi and Google will establish a new virtual Innovation Lab with the ambition to radically transform how future medicines and health services are delivered by tapping into the power of...

From One Brain Scan, more Information fo…

MIT researchers have devised a novel method to glean more information from images used to train machine-learning models, including those that can analyze medical scans to help diagnose and treat...

A Miniature Robot that could Check Colon…

Engineers have shown it is technically possible to guide a tiny robotic capsule inside the colon to take micro-ultrasound images. Known as a Sonopill, the device could one day replace...

Your Circle of Friends, not Your Fitbit…

Wearable fitness trackers have made it all too easy for us to make assumptions about our health. We may look to our heart rate to determine whether we really felt...

Call for Startup Pitch Day @ Villeroy …

The Startup Pitch Day is a competition to identify innovative Startups with the aim of creating potential cooperation with Villeroy & Boch Innovations GmbH. Therefore 10 startups are invited to...

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Delivered b…

Preliminary findings from two analyses of an ongoing study suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia delivered by telemedicine is as effective as face-to-face delivery. Results of a randomized controlled...

IMS MAXIMS Forms e-Prescribing Partnersh…

IMS MAXIMS has formed a partnership with Better by Marand to become a reseller for its e-prescribing system, OPENeP. The move gives NHS trusts that want to progress their digital...

Oxford Health Uses Oxehealth Technology …

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has introduced a new observation protocol for checking the safety of patients with severe mental health conditions at night, after a formal evaluation of technology...

Wearable Technology to Personalize Lu-17…

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, are developing a user-friendly (worn at home) vest with technology that collects data to tailor personalized therapy for patients with metastatic...

QUIBIM to Develop Platform in Leading Re…

QUIBIM is helping to advance knowledge of the most lethal pediatric tumors through EU-funded project PRIMAGE, which exploits precision information from medical imaging to establish tumor prognosis, and expected treatment...

3D Body Mapping could Identify, Treat Or…

Medical advancements can come at a physical cost. Often following diagnosis and treatment for cancer and other diseases, patients' organs and cells can remain healed but damaged from the medical...