After inventing ReWalk Robotics exoskeleton that helps people with paraplegia to walk, robotics has now come to aid the people suffering from spinal cord injuries.
A robotic device has been invented by Indian scientists sin Columbia to help people with spinal cord injuries that can cause loss of mobility and sensation. This device is called Trunk-Support Trainer (TruST). It will train and support the patients to sit more steadily by improving their trunk control by strengthening it and acquiring an active sitting space enabling them to sit without falling over or using their hands to balance it. This will allow them to gain and expand the sitting place of around 25% around their bodies.
Trust is a motorized cable-driven belt explicitly designed for those who use a wheelchair. The strap is placed on the user’s torso to determine their postural control limits and sitting workspace area, delivering forces on the torso when the user moves their upper body. This allows them to extend their upper body movements beyond their typical postural stability limits when they sit down.
Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering and rehabilitation and regenerative medicine, said that they have designed Trunk Support trainer (TruST) for people suffering from SCIs who are typically wheelchair users. According to them, TruST besides preventing falling over also maximizes the movements beyond the patient’s postural control and balance limits.
This is the first research to help the people suffering from spinal cord injuries that will enable a robotic system to sit workspace based on the active trunk control and has been published in the journal Spinal Cord Series and Cases.
Five patients were examined with using TruST which allows them to follow a ball with their head and move their body to the maximum limit without using their hands or falling, This study as a part of the experiment was replicated in eight directions indicating a star shape and each one’s sitting workspace was observed by researchers. After that, the team modified the robotic system to apply individual assistive force on the torso for each patient while the same movement was made by the patients.
As said by Victor Santamaria, a physical therapist, a postdoctoral researcher in Agrawal’s Robotics and Rehabilitation Laboratory, The TruST has opened new doors to use motor-learning based paradigms to refrain functional sitting in people. The capacity of TruSt can be personalized according to users’ postural limits.
Now the team is working on the use of TruST following a training pattern that can also improve the trunk control f adults and children with spinal cord injury.
Aggarwal elaborated that the robotic platform will be used by the patients with SCI by challenging them to move their trunk on larger workspace with the help of TruST which will help them in bringing the trunk to a neutral sitting posture.
He further said that TruSt will be adjusted according to the needs of patients over time as they will improve their workspace and posture control.