Helping the paralyzed to walk again
A technique helping stroke victims regain their mobility has won the 2010 Danish Research Result of the Year award and is now attracting attention from investors keen to see the research move from the lab and into rehabilitation centers. Professor Ole Kaeseler Andersen of the Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction at Aalborg University, Denmark, has developed method that uses the nervous system's natural reflex reaction to pain to aid stroke patient rehabilitation.
Andersen's research is based on the way a person pulls the foot back as a reflex to sudden pain - known as nociceptive withdrawal reflex. A better understanding of this reflex has lead to it being used as a tool in rehabilitation.
"We have developed a method of using electrical stimulation of the withdrawal reflex in a way that can help in patients' rehabilitation," says Andersen. "The electrical impulse triggers a natural reflex such that the leg is pulled up and the foot moves, so the patient is helped to move their leg even though he or she was partially paralyzed after a stroke."
The treatment, called functional electrical therapy, has been tested with stroke patients at the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center at Vendsyssel Hospital in Bronderslev, Denmark.
Having won the Danish Research Result of the Year for 2010, the Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction research has now attracted investor attention. Negotiations are under way with an investor interested in providing venture capital for the project, a move that will see the new technology venture out of the research laboratory and into the commercial market, being sold to rehabilitation centers world-wide.