Soft robotic wearables are quickly emerging as a potential solution to providing essential support and improved mobility for those with neurodegenerative conditions like ALS. A team of researchers from Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have developed a soft robotic wearable which is capable of assisting upper arm and shoulder mobility for those with ALS.
The team’s findings, which were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, have given hope to those affected by ALS and similar illnesses. The robotic wearable features a lightweight design and flexible materials which allows it to be comfortably worn and moved around with ease.
The wearable works by providing two different types of assistance: passive and active. Passive assistance involves the robotic wearable providing static support to the arm. This helps the wearer to hold their arm in a comfortable position while decreasing the amount of fatigue experienced. Active assistance meanwhile, involves the robotic wearable helping to move the wearer’s arm. This helps to restore natural motion, allowing the user to complete tasks such as brushing their teeth or combing their hair.
The soft robotic wearable has undergone extensive testing, with participants reporting improved upper arm and shoulder mobility, along with a significant increase in the quality of life for those affected by ALS. The team hopes that the technology can eventually be adapted for use in other areas, such as providing support for those with spinal cord injuries, stroke, and other neurological conditions.
The development of soft robotic wearables has the potential to revolutionize the way those with ALS and other neurological conditions live their lives, allowing for increased independence and quality of life.