The nature of multiple sclerosis is complicated and extremely varied from patient to patient. While some patients experience relatively mild symptoms and maybe only during periods of inflammation or flare-ups, other patients experience symptoms constantly. Sometimes, these symptoms can progress to a point that they become debilitating. Losing the ability to see, grip or grab, or walk without assistance will make it difficult for any MS patient to live without some kind of assistance. While there are numerous treatments being developed by researchers to alleviate symptoms, there are also a host of innovative inventions and devices designed to help people who live with the reality of multiple sclerosis every day.
Soft Robotic Exosuit
From the imaginings and clever engineering work at Harvard University and ReWalk Robotics comes the soft robotic exosuit. This machine is designed to help patients who are struggling with mobility. While the exosuit is certainly not limited to MS patients – it’s also being marketed for individuals who have suffered a stroke or have Parkinson’s, for example – the key here is helping people maintain mobility.
Essentially, the exosuit straps on to a patient’s lower torso and legs. The machine combined with assistive hand-held crutches helps patients to walk. When tested on 9 different stroke victims, researchers found that the suit reduced the effort needed to walk by 32%. ReWalk Robotics has worked hard to make sure the suit is especially lightweight to maximize its effectiveness.
You can read more about the soft robotic exosuit at Parkinson’s News Today.
This next product is currently in the developmental stages, so it’s not on the market yet, but it’s already catching eyes because of the potential it has to improve the lives of MS patients. This device is designed to help MS patients with gripping and grabbing. It’s like two separate plastic boards that are connected at one end by a hinge. It straps onto an individual’s hand and then assists them with hand dexterity. The device constantly measures the force, range of motion, and number of actions and individual can complete with sensors that are embedded into it.
While the device certainly offers a promising aid for MS patients who struggle with hand usage, its inventor is also pretty incredible in her own right. The device is currently being developed by Lauren Murphy who began working on it not long after she finished high school. She was inspired to make the device because her father has multiple sclerosis.
You can read more about this gripping device and its inventor Lauren Murphy at Silicon Republic.
When a patient’s MS symptoms get progressively worse walking will often become a challenge. While there are a host of chairs and scooters that can help patients get around more easily, the Paramobile wheelchair takes the idea of mobility to the next level. Anthony Netto invented the Paramobile because he missed golfing after he became confined to a wheelchair following a gunshot wound. Users are strapped into the Paramobile chair which then raises its seat to bring patients into a standing position. Unlike other chairs that help with standing, the Paramobile is especially sturdy so that it won’t break while users are taking advantage of the standing feature. Although expensive, the Paramobile certainly accomplished Netto’s goal: helping patients with mobility issues get back in the game.
Read more about the Paramobile and Anthony Netto at the Times Union.
Forehead Sewing Machine
If this next device catches your eye, then you’re going to have to contact the inventor directly because it’s not currently in mass development. Judy Winship is a longtime MS patient who also loves to sew. As her symptoms got worse, it became harder for her to operate her sewing machine with her hands and arms. So friend and mechanic Gerry Wurtak modified her sewing machine so that it is now powered by a pressure pedal operated by Judy’s forehead. Although this particular sewing machine is unique, it does demonstrate the principle that with a little creativity, many of our day-to-day devices can be modified to accommodate a host of different symptoms.
Read more about Judy and her forehead-powered sewing machine at CBC News.
The Tecla has been in development by Canadian developer Komodo Openlabs since 2010. The Tecla is a small black box that can be mounted on any standard electronic wheelchair. The device is designed for patients whose symptoms prevent them from using their hands and arms to operate a mobility device. With Tecla, patients use the same motions that they would use to control an electronic chair – a small joystick or head and neck movements for example – to control electronic devices. Tecla can be used to play games or for activities that may seem more simple like making a phone call or browsing the internet. Tecla also keeps track of a user’s location and the surrounding environment so that caregivers can be more aware of patients’ needs. The first edition of Tecla could only operate one device at a time, but the most recent upgrade has jumped from one to eight.
You can see the Tecla in action and read more about it at Tech Crunch.
This next invention isn’t really a device, but it can still be a helpful tool for dealing with MS. A new app called elevateMS has recently been developed through a partnership between pharmaceutical company Novartis and digital research company Sage Bionetworks. The elevateMS app uses the date that your smartphone collects regarding your health and activity as well as questions that it asks on a regular basis to keep track of your symptoms. While the app is a helpful and convenient tool for tracking your symptoms and getting a better handle on how MS affects you as an individual patient, the data is also being collected and used by Novartis for research purposes. Not only does the app keep a handy log of your own symptoms, but by using it you’re also helping researchers as they work to develop treatment options.
Find out more information about elevateMS at Multiple Sclerosis News Today.
For MS patients suffering from a loss of mobility adjusting to a new lifestyle can be very difficult. Patients who were used to exercising on a regular basis may find themselves unable to maintain the same level of activity as symptoms progress. With the Alinker three wheeled walking bike, MS patients can adapt to their symptoms without giving up all their activity.
The Alinker is a bike that is powered by walking instead of pedaling. It’s got three wheels for added stability as well as a seat that you can prop up against. Riders can have the seat and handlebars adjusted so that it fits their proportions just right, and then with a few steps, they’ll be on their way. While not all MS patients will be able to use the bike, it helps with mobility issues but does require a fair amount of activity, for those with mildly debilitating symptoms, it’s a great way to stay active.
Check out the Alinker walking bike at Sun Live.
MS patients have long had an arsenal of basic assistive devices at their disposal, items like wheelchairs, scooters, or grip extenders. These devices can certainly be invaluable, but as technology progresses, so does the list of available tools. Regardless of the severity of symptoms a patient may be experiencing, there’s certainly a device out there that can help meet a patient’s need and make their daily life more accessible.