Researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Division of Biomedical Engineering, Medical Devices Lab, have developed a low-cost robotic device, called reScribe, that aims to revolutionise stroke rehabilitation.

The robotic hand exoskeleton was developed as a rehabilitation tool to help stroke victims improve their fine-motor skills using task oriented handwriting therapy.

A virtual company “reScribe” (currently being incubated within the university ) was founded by a UCT team comprising Yasheen Brijlal (CTO), Gavin Jones (CEO) and UCT academic advisors Lester John and Sudesh Sivarasu after significant interest was shown in the technology’s market potential at Googlefest in June 2014 and the Design of Medical Devices (DMD) conference in April 2015.  The company will be formally incorporated once trials have been completed.

The robotic hand exoskeleton features five actuated degrees-of-freedom on the thumb, index and middle fingers that are needed for a tripod handwriting grip. The glove fits over the patient’s hand and guides the movement as they trace an image on a computer tablet with a stylus, allowing users to re-learn coordination.

“The reScribe hand writing therapy exercises have the potential  to rehabilitate the lost fine motor control in the fingers, particularly in stoke patients who have suffered upper limb and hand disability,” said Brijlal in an interview with eHealthNews.

reScribe may be able to improve traditional handwriting therapy by allowing a patient to perform training exercises at home without the need for a trained therapist. The device assists the patient to complete repetitive handwriting tasks which promotes muscle memory and provides a means to regain lost fine motor skills.

“reScribe is portable, connected and easy to use, specifically for out-patients and remote-therapy,” said Jones. “reScribe functional programmable therapy can be gamified so that it is fun and engaging for the patient to use, while digitally recording the progress made for the therapist to review and adjust accordingly.”

According to Jones, the reScribe team is currently developing the technology so that it will be affordable for rehabilitation therapists, both occupational and physical, to make use of in working with stroke patients, typically six months post stoke.

“We will be conducting pre-clinical trials locally in early 2016 to test the device’s efficacy, and are in the process of planning an international clinical trial pending the successful outcome from the pre-clinical trial,” concluded Jones.

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