Awards will support researchers' work on a system to aid rehabilitation in children, and improved healing in shoulder injuries
Two research projects at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have been awarded funding under the RecerCaixa programme, among just 26 successful proposals chosen from a total 362 applications submitted to the 2013 call.
Alícia Casals’ “Desenvolupament d un sistema robòtic de baix cost d ajut a la rehabilitació de la marxa per a nens amb transtorns motors greus” and Elisabeth Engel’s “Tendon Tissue Engineering: A Helping Hand for Rotator Cuff Tears (BIOTENDON)” receive 77,000 and 65,000 respectively under the scheme, which is a joint initiative by the Associació Catalana d’Universitats Públiques (ACUP) and Obra Social la Caixa and was launched in 2010.
The chosen projects, which will be developed over the next two years, aim to respond to specific problems and challenges of today's society. IBEC already has two other ongoing projects with funds from the scheme: InHands (Joan Aranda, Robotics group) and 'Development of light-modulated ligands for remote, non-invasive regulation of neuropathic pain' (Pau Gorostiza, Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches group).
More about “Desenvolupament d un sistema robòtic de baix cost d ajut a la rehabilitació de la marxa per a nens amb transtorns motors greus”
Principal Investigator: Alícia Casals, Robotics group
Many neurological diseases that affect children involve serious motor disorders that impede normal walking. Existing devices used in physiotherapy and rehabilitation which reproduce walking patterns in patients using robotic systems are currently limited to rehabilitation centers, since they are extremely expensive, are impractical for personal use at home; they also tend to be addressed specifically to adults.
The project, involving IBEC and Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona, proposes the development and evaluation of a robotic system based on a standard treadmill that works in a similar way to the current complex robotic systems found in rehabilitation centers, but which can be adapted to patients of any size and needs, and used in the home. “It will differ from classical systems because rather than providing complete lower limb orthotics, which can force the whole movement of the joints,” explains Alícia Casals of IBEC’s Robotics group, who is also a professor at the UPC. “The treadmill will have a motorized handle that lets the patient control the degree of support on the belt, and two retractable arms that help make controlled walking movements just by holding the patient’s feet.”
The platform will also be useful for research into the effects of rehabilitation robotics on patients’ progress, with physiological sensors that estimate the degree of fatigue and the need to adapt the therapy at any time. The system will also be equipped with visual feedback to motivate and stimulate the patient, and the design of the equipment would not only be adaptable to children but also to the elderly.
More about BIOTENDON
Principal Investigator: Elisabeth Engel, Biomaterials for Regenerative Medicine group
The project aims to create a new biological scaffold composed of a nanofibrous polymeric scaffold with the appropriate biological signals and committed tendon cells, which will help surgeons repair rotator cuff tears in the tendons or muscles of the shoulder. These injuries are becoming an important burden on health systems due to the increasingly aging population and modern active lifestyles.
“To provide both a suitable environment and the right biological signals for the healing process, we will make scaffolds which are seeded with tendon cells obtained from biopsies,” explains Elisabeth Engel of IBEC’s Biomaterials for Regenerative Therapies group, who is also an associate professor at the UPC. “We’ll do some further mechanical conditioning of this structure so that it helps stimulate cell morphology and mechanical properties similar to those found in real tendons.”
If successful, the project will create a marketable medical device that can improve the healing process and avoid the usual problem of reruptures, a typical problem when a tear is bigger than 2.5 cm in length. In addition, the device will be able to be used in other tears on the body, such as the Achilles tendon.
The project brings together an interdisciplinary team composed by experts in the fabrication and characterization of biomaterials, cell-materials interactions, in vitro studies and tissue engineering at IBEC, as well as clinicians from the Hospital of Terrassa. The close collaboration between researchers and clinicians will ensure that the product developed by BIOTENDON meets clinical needs and represents a substantial benefit for the huge amount of elderly patients suffering from rotator cuff tears.