Researchers at Western University have developed custom-fit gloves to help control tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Not only does this glove help give them some sense of normality again, but it gives them their independence back as well.
Parkinson’s disease is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that tends to affect the motor system the most. The disease progresses slowly over time, and is best exemplified through constant shaking and rigidity. Eventually leading to difficulty walking, swallowing problems and other health conditions. Symptoms may vary from patient to patient.
“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,” says Ana Luisa Trejos, professor of electrical and computer engineering professor at Western University, and lead investigator of the Wearable Biomechatronics Laboratory Group.
The problem with a lot of the devices that are currently on the market is that they restrict movement in general, which still makes the tasks at hand hard to do. In the worst-case scenario, it can even suppress movement at the level of the elbows or wrists that exacerbates the tremors in the fingers.
The design model of the glove uses a system of sensors that track voluntary movements and separates them from involuntary tremors. The gloves will then suppress the tremor to allow fluid motion of movement. The current prototype glove was created for the left hand of student Yue Zhou, who used 3D printing to design a custom fit.
The team is also working on improving the glove’s hardware to make it more practical to wear, including reducing the size of the glove’s controller and improving its battery system. Once these pieces are all in place, they hope to find commercial partners to bring the gloves to the market.
If effective, this could dramatically change the lives of people living with Parkinson’s disease, allowing them to do daily tasks many people take for granted.