3D Technology Prints Prosthetic for Violinist.

I find it very exciting when technology comes to the aid of our disabled community.  So I am delighted to bring you news about a young violinist who has benefitted from the wonders of 3D printing technology.

If you are familiar with the incredibly beautiful sounds a violin can produce, from melancholy strains to bright and powerful bravado, then you will agree no one should be denied the right to make their attempt at creating such loveliness, and those of us able to listen should be quite grateful for the experience to do so. While you may take for granted the ease you possess in being able to grab an instrument and begin playing, that’s not always so for everyone, especially in the rare case of Sarah Valentiner, a 12-year-old who was born without her right hand.

While we’ve actually written about a host of extraordinary 3D printed violins from electric to open source, it’s rare that we see a case where a 3D printed prosthetic was created so that one could enjoy playing. And it’s incredibly inspiring all around, as the maker of the prosthetic is an engineering student who was engaged in the learning process of not only creating something via 3D technology, but also in seeing how it can apply to a very real world situation. As many of us are aware, both playing and listening to music are very fulfilling and the experience is definitely something that to appeals to the emotional and spiritual side. To see someone being aided further in that endeavor is extremely uplifting, and it would seem that all involved in the project at hand were duly inspired.

[Photo: NIU]While young Valentiner has the talent for playing the violin, it was Oleseun Taiwo, a 20-year-old engineering student at Northern Illinois University, who took on the challenge of creating a new prosthetic so that Valentiner would be able to handle her stringed instrument more easily and with greater proficiency. The eighth grader had previously been using a prosthetic given to her by the Shriners Club. It had served as a much needed utilitarian tool, but obviously for something like playing the violin fluidly (and performing other tasks as well) it was limiting her.

As they wanted to see their daughter to continue growing, and especially in her music, Valentiner’s parents, David Valentiner and Nina Mount (both psychology professors at NIU) began exploring e-NABLE, a network of designers and volunteers we have the deep pleasure of following as they continually offer innovative 3D printed prosthetics to kids around the world, whether it’s the first parametric design that adjusts as children grow or a Spiderman design being presented to a four-year-old in a developing country.

As Valenriner’s parents began exploring e-NABLE together, they found that people all around the world not only design 3D printed hands and arms, but also freely share them. With this in mind, they began speaking with NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology to if just perhaps someone might help with 3D printing an e-NABLE prosthetic for their daughter. Soon, they were in contact with Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Federico Sciammarella, who not only helped Valentiner’s parents in their mission, but handed an extremely valuable learning experience to one of his students. Sciammarella himself is known around the world for his expertise in 3D printing, and in handing down his knowledge, he chose a student who was a self-starter.

“I gave Oleseun the opportunity and the guidance, but this is his design,” said Sciammarella. “I wanted him to be the owner of this project … that’s the only way they learn.”

The student engineer went into great detail as he explored what would be the best fit and material for Valentiner, especially in consideration to her passion for violin.

“I wanted to go deeper and be able to use design to solve major problems that would have a quick impact,” said Taiwo in a recent interview.

This went from a university project to a very strong interest in the use of 3D technology for both Taiwo and Valentiner. Taiwo met with Valentiner many times as they worked on not only the fit, but also how she would need to move her hand, along with numerous other details. The goal was to make her the perfect hand. This took six different versions, with the last being made of a lightweight nylon/plastic material.

As they worked on creating the prosthetic, all of the benefits of 3D printing began to emerge. Customization, while perhaps not easy, was a huge factor in the success of the prosthetic, along with being able to make continual changes as needed. The e-NABLE designs are also considerably more affordable, weigh much less than traditional prosthetics, and can be produced and assembled quickly. With this new design, it made a big difference in playing violin as well because Valentiner does not have to dismantle the bow.

“It just made sense,” said Taiwo. “Taking the bow apart, and reassembling it with one hand, is no easy task.”

And even better, as Valentiner continues on with her violin, Taiwo will be sharing what he has learned so that others have the potential to benefit as well. They are sharing the story with e-NABLE, and it would seem that perhaps Taiwo has found a direction he would like to pursue as he completes his engineering degree.

“When I started in engineering I figured I’d just get my degree and get a job,” said the Naperville student, whose father Temitope Taiwo is deputy director of nuclear engineering at Argonne National Laboratory.

And even though he’s still all about finding solutions, he insisted, the project with Valentiner changed him.

Sarah Valentiner plays the violin using the prosthetic designed by Oleseun Taiwo. [Image: Denise Crosby]The young future engineer not only has the bug to continue in 3D printing, but to help people in doing so. Both he and Valentiner were able to employ their independent spirits in reaching their goal with the 3D printed prosthetic, a point that Valentiner’s psychologist parents point out as being very important especially for children with disabilities, as they are able to actively ‘shape their destinies’ as well as seeing what’s possible. Now Valentiner, along with her proclivity for violin, has taken to the idea of being an engineer, too. She also gave us some insight as to what motivated her to also work so hard in seeing the prosthetic to fruition:

 

Multiple Sclerosis and Exercise – Important New Facts.

Disabilitymatch has many users with MS so we were very interested with this article which talks about the relationship between multiple sclerosis and physical exercise.  If you have any thoughts please leave a comment below or tweet us @disabilitymatch.

It can cause a wide range of symptoms including difficulties with the movement of limbs, changes in vision, and problems with balance and sensation.

Although there is no cure, scientists have demonstrated that, for individuals with mild to moderate disability, exercise can improve the severity of certain symptoms.

Exercise has been shown to increase muscular strength and aerobic capacity and improve the individual’s sense of wellness. Additionally, there is some evidence that exercise might help slow the progression of MS, although the data is conflicting.

How exercise reduces the symptoms of MS is not known, but researchers believe that it could be due to the modulation of immune factors or stress hormones, or perhaps by altering the expression of neuronal growth factors.

A number of MS risk factors are known; for instance, the condition is more prevalent in women than men, and it seems to have links with certain infections, including Epstein-Barr. White people and those who live in temperate climates are also more likely to develop MS. However, the full list of risks is yet to be uncovered.

One potential risk factor that has received some attention from scientists is the level of exercise an individual is involved in prior to the onset of MS. It is commonly believed that a higher level of physical activity reduces the risk of MS; however, this is still very much up for debate.

Findings are contradictory or unclear; for instance, some studies have shown that individuals who develop MS tend to be more physically active before onset; others showed no difference in pre-onset activity.

However, earlier studies did not use detailed, validated questionnaires to assess physical activity levels. There is also a confounding variable that makes some of the results difficult to interpret. Two of the early symptoms of MS are weakness and fatigue. So, did the lack of physical exercise promote the onset of MS, or was the lack of exercise a sign of the onset of MS?

A team of scientists from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, recently set out to investigate whether physical activity has an effect on MS risk once and for all. Their results are published this week in the journal Neurology.

The team took data from more than 193,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II; these individuals were followed up for 20 years, starting in 1976. Each woman completed detailed questionnaires about their current levels of physical activity and also their activity levels as teens and young girls. Over the course of 20 years, 341 women developed MS.

Once the data were collated, the researchers calculated the hours of exercise each individual carried out per week and what types of exercise they did. The group adjusted the results for ethnicity, age, smoking, place of residence at the age of 15, BMI at 18, and vitamin D supplement intake.

After the analysis had been completed, the data showed that, contrary to expectation, exercise was not correlated in any way to the appearance of MS.

“Overall, there was no consistent association of exercise at any age and MS. Exercise has been shown to be beneficial to people with the disease, but it seems unlikely that exercise protects against the risk of developing MS.”

Via medicalnewstoday.com

Important Advance in Crohns Disease Research

Crohns disease is a real disability for its many sufferers and disabilitymatch has many crohns people using our site and following our twitter feed.  So we are delighted that we are hearing about exciting developments in treatment for this debilitating ailment.

Those who suffer with the disease know the effect that the symptoms – weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain – can have, but doctors have not, up until yet, been able to tell patients why they’ve developed the condition. Many believe that it’s caused by an abnormal response of the immune system to bacteria that we all have in our gut, but it’s only now that that fungus has been identified.

Researchers analysed samples from 20 Crohn’s patients for levels of bacteria and fungi, and compared them to those from 28 healthy volunteers. Crohn’s sufferers had “strong fungal-bacterial interactions”, said researchers; specifically the bacteria Serratia marcescens and the fungus Candida tropicalis and E.coli.

The study’s senior author, Mahmoud A. Gannoum, professor and director of the Centre for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Centre, said: “Among hundreds of bacterial and fungal species inhabiting the intestines, it is telling that the three we identified were so highly correlated in Crohn’s patients.”

The discovery is the first to ever link a fungus to Crohn’s disease, and it’s one that could open the door to new therapies, such as different medications and probiotics. According to Crohn’s and Colitis Australia, 75,000 Australians currently live with the condition, with numbers expected to increase to 100,000 by 2022.

Most experts suspect the condition is the result of the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells, mistakenly triggered by bacteria in the digestive tract. Now, a new study has identified a specific fungus and two bacteria they think play a key role in what leads some people to develop the disease.

“Among hundreds of bacterial and fungal species inhabiting the intestines, it is telling that the three we identified were so highly correlated in Crohn’s patients,” the study’s senior author Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said in a press release.

People with Crohn’s disease know the uncomfortable symptoms of chronic disease very well: diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue, among others.

But what doctors have not been able to say the approximately 565,000 people in the US Crohn’s disease is why we have developed inflammatory bowel disease in the first place.

Those who suffer with the disease know the effect that the symptoms – weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain – can have, but doctors have not, up until yet, been able to tell patients why they’ve developed the condition. Many believe that it’s caused by an abnormal response of the immune system to bacteria that we all have in our gut, but it’s only now that that fungus has been identified.

Researchers analysed samples from 20 Crohn’s patients for levels of bacteria and fungi, and compared them to those from 28 healthy volunteers. Crohn’s sufferers had “strong fungal-bacterial interactions”, said researchers; specifically the bacteria Serratia marcescens and the fungus Candida tropicalis and E.coli.

The study’s senior author, Mahmoud A. Gannoum, professor and director of the Centre for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Centre, said: “Among hundreds of bacterial and fungal species inhabiting the intestines, it is telling that the three we identified were so highly correlated in Crohn’s patients.”

The discovery is the first to ever link a fungus to Crohn’s disease, and it’s one that could open the door to new therapies, such as different medications and probiotics. According to Crohn’s and Colitis Australia, 75,000 Australians currently live with the condition, with numbers expected to increase to 100,000 by 2022.

Most experts suspect the condition is the result of the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells, mistakenly triggered by bacteria in the digestive tract. Now, a new study has identified a specific fungus and two bacteria they think play a key role in what leads some people to develop the disease.

“Among hundreds of bacterial and fungal species inhabiting the intestines, it is telling that the three we identified were so highly correlated in Crohn’s patients,” the study’s senior author Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said in a press release.

 

Via onbreaking.com

Rio Medal Winners Delighted in Every Sense.

What a wonderful idea -Paralympic medal winners now look and sound like champions. This is a great step forward in Paralympic medal design that can delight winners in each of their senses.

That’s because when the gold, silver and bronze medals for the 2016 games in Rio are shaken, they each make a different noise. The new feature gives visually impaired athletes another way to identify which medal they’ve won.

Victor Hugo Berbert, the manager in charge of the new sound element, told the International Business Times that he hopes the addition leads to more design elements that promote inclusivity.

“That the next games bring other sensory elements for the athletes and that this might carry on,” he told the outlet.

Each of the 2,642 medals made for the Paralympic games has a device inside with a different number of steel balls, giving each color a different tone, according to the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ site.

The bronze medals, for instance, have 16 steel balls, producing the lowest noise. Silver medals have 20 balls, creating a slightly higher rattle and the gold medals have 28, generating the loudest tone. You can hear three sound levels in the video below:

All of the medals also have “Rio 2016 Paralympic Games” written on them in braille.

The aim was to give athletes who are visually impaired a more personalized commemoration.

“To not just be able to show the medal, but for those who have a visual or sensory impairment to be able to feel it not just by touching it, not just with the Braille that is on it, but with its sound,” Berbert, told IBT.

The idea for the addition occurred when designer Claudia Gamboa had an “ah-ha” moment one day while a team was thinking of ways to improve the medals, Dalcacio Reis, the Olympics’ design manager, told Public Radio International.

“We just said, ‘Oh my God! Let’s try to do it,’” Reis told the outlet.

It took the team a few months to add the new design element, but once they were done, they were pleased with the results. Tânia Martins, brand manager for the 2016 Summer Games told PRI:

“We call it, ‘The sound of victory.’’”

Via huffingtonpost.com

7 Day NHS a Fantasy For Disabled Community.

 

The UK’s disabled community is in greater need of a 7 day NHS than other groups and so the fading fantasy of that happening soon is something tat is troubling to all of us regardless of medical complication or disability.  Even if the promised £350Million per week from Brexit actually happened the NHS would struggle to meet its commitments.  This is a tragedy for the country and something we in the disabled community should campaign about in the strongest possible terms.
Chris Hopson, boss of NHS Providers has a vey bleak assessment of the public sector health service in the UK. He said the NHS was “increasingly failing to do the job it wans to do, and the public needs it to do, through no fault of its own.”

Jeremy Hunt’s pursuit of a fully functioning seven-day service would need a massive increase in staff numbers, and an additional cash boost. At a time when the health service is struggling to carry out its work, extending the service seems an unwise move.

Hopson noted that hospital administrators have a tough choice between investing money that is crucial to the service or simply overseeing a decline in service standards, endangering patients.

He said there needs to be “an open, honest, realistic, national debate on what gives” if no additional funding is handed to the NHS. He does not believe the health service can survive much longer in its current state and only the dedication of staff have kept the NHS running.

He told the Observer: “Thanks to the dedication of staff, NHS performance rarely goes off the edge of a cliff.

“As the 1990s showed, instead we get a long, slow decline that is only fully visible in retrospect.

“It’s therefore difficult to isolate a single point in that downward trajectory to sound a warning bell.

Speaking to the BBC, he added: “We have now got hospital trusts having to close services, we have also got trusts who are saying that the only way to make the money add up is to cut the workforce.

“These are all things that have been done by other public service, but it’s very different for the NHS.”

Jeremy Hunt has continually clashed with junior doctors’ over the imposition of new contracts and there have been numerous strikes in protest, with a major strike aborted at the last minute due to concerns over patients’ safety. The strikes might have been called off this time, but the junior doctors’ anger at the Government shows no signs of going away.

thelondoneconomic.com

Claire Shows the Power of Bionics on Great North Run.

One of the most amazing things I saw at NAIDEX this year was the bionic suit created by ReWalk which provides an exoskeleton for amputees and quadriplegics.  Claire  Lomas is a shining example of how robotics and determination can work together to achieve greatness.

Claire Lomas, from Leicestershire, was paralysed from the chest down in a riding accident in 2007.

She began the half marathon, which runs from Newcastle to South Shields, on Wednesday and crossed the finish line at about 10:00 BST.

The 36-year-old, who is 16 weeks pregnant, said she was “over the moon” to finish the run.

She broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse threw her off as she took part in the Osberton Horse Trials in Nottinghamshire.

Mrs Lomas has no feeling below her chest and used a ReWalk robotic exoskeleton, which relies on motion sensors to help her move and lift her legs to walk the route.

“It doesn’t just walk for me. I have to use the parts that aren’t paralysed to make it walk.”

She walked about three miles a day with the help of her husband Dan and was met at the finish line by her five-year-old daughter Maisie.

She said she had struggled to train because of morning sickness which meant there were times when she did not think she would make it to the start.

“I had quite a lot of morning sickness. I didn’t have the lead up I wanted, but I really did not want to lose this opportunity,” she said.

In 2012, Mrs Lomas completed the London Marathon in last place, inspiring many people with her courage and determination.

Via bbc.co.uk

 

Latest Prosthetics Enhance Lives of Amputees.

When you consider just how many people lose limbs every year from road accidents trough to diabetes any advances in prosthetics are to be welcomed.  One of the pioneers in the field of amputee rehabilitation is Dr. Esquenazi  at Moss Rehab in Philadelphia.

It’s sophisticated computer technology that allows specialists at Moss-Rehab to analyze movement. “Here are the muscles you see during running,” Dr. Alberto Esquenazi explains as he points to a graph on the computer screen.

Dr. Esquenazi is the Chief Medical Officer at Moss-Rehab, and he says this gait and motion analysis lets him monitor how patients are progressing though rehabilitation. “That allows us to figure out if the muscles are working correctly,” he explained further.

He is a pioneer in the world of amputee rehab and prosthetics, “so the little tips in my hooks give me a lot of precision. I could take one single hair and pull that out,” he said as he demonstrated with his own prosthetic hand. Dr. Esquenazi has a unique prospective. He is an amputee himself. He lost his hand to a burn that happened in medical school when chemicals had been mislabled. “At that point, I thought I was not going to continue in medicine,” He revealed. But he did and is now helping others who have lost limbs, with refined new prosthetics.

“Patients can now do many more things that they really were not able to do before.” He said as he displayed another more advanced prosthetic hand, “this gripper for example has about 6 times more strength than what I am wearing, so I could actually grab an object and crush it.”

From strength to aesthetics, real looking hands can be attached to the prosthetics, and the movements are controlled by muscles in your forearm. Back in the lab, once patients are fitted with either arms or legs, Dr. Esquenazi can help refine the movements so that patients can start feeling normal again. “They can really get the emotional support of now having a device that will help them do more things,” he said.

Dr. Esquenazi is also working with the re-walk technology at Moss-Rehab, which is allowing paralyzed patients to walk again.

Via philadelphia.cbslocal.com

 

Mental Health Patients Often Held in Police Cells – Shameful!

Heads should be hanging in shame in the West Country today as a report indicates that mental health patients in a crisis situation are often being held in police cells instead of a suitable mental care facility.

The report by the Care Quality Commission – the body that assesses healthcare – found there were significant failings in delivering places of safety by the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership.

The NHS trust – which provides mental health services across Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire – has been told overall it “requires improvement”.

Inspectors found patients were regularly waiting more than twelve hours for an assessment and even longer for admission to a suitable ward.

Dr Paul Lelliott, the Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals said:

When a person in a crisis who requires mental health care is detained by the police, they should be taken immediately to a properly staffed place of safety where they can be assessed by a mental healthcare professional.

They should be taken to a police cell only in exceptional circumstances. We found that too often the designated places of safety were not available when needed.

This must be addressed as a priority and I know the trust is already working closely with the police to tackle this problem.

After its last inspection in December 2015 the CQC served a Warning Notice because of concerns about mental health care in Bristol.

It found people needing urgent community-based mental health services were waiting several months for assessment.

As well as finding areas where problems persist, the latest inspection in May found major improvements – particularly in community mental health services in Bristol.

Via itv.com

Paralympics Coming to Rio 2016

Well, we have just been through an incredible 16 days of Olympic excitement in RIO.  I have been glue to my sofa every night watching niche sports into the early hours on BBC.  I had never shown any interest before in women’s hockey events BUT when we have a Team GB match with medals at the end of it then it takes on a whole new dimension.  I guess that is the whole point of the Olympic games – it makes us aware of sports we might never otherwise watch and so we learn and get engaged emotionally with the result.

Hopefully the Paralympics will be the same.  In London 2012 we all watched with fascination at blind football and wheelchair archery, we all discovered a whole new group of athletic heroes.  This has had a longterm effect on the disabled community.  Not just a sense of pride but an increased desire to participate and get fitter.  Not everyone can be an ‘Olympic’ athlete but all people disabled and fully able can improve their physical activity, health, flexibility and spirit of achievement.   We are worried, of course, about how the Rio Paralympic games will turn out.  There are money worries and some countries will not have the funding to travel to the games.  The Russian drugs ban will remove a large swathe of great olympic talent which will affect a whole range of sports.  Already the Brazilian organisers have warned of low ticket sales and closing venues.  This is a real pity since the Brazilian squad are rated quite highly within the Paralympic movement.

We have interviewed Michelle Weltman, events organiser the London Marathon on our upcoming podcast episode and she tells us which UK athletes we should be looking out for and cheering on from our sofas.  In 2012 Channel 4  did a great job on presenting the Paralympics, hopefully their presentation in RIO this year will be at the same level at excellence.

Neuroscience Helps Paralysed Man Move His Hand & Wrist

An extraordinary development in neuroscience technology that has been developed between researchers  in New York and Newcastle have allowed Ian Burkhart from Ohio – a quadriplegic – to move his hand and wrist.  WE are so excited with the way in which technology is moving forward in the field of disability  that we bring you part of an article published in ‘Nature’ magazine.

A quadriplegic man who has become the first person to be implanted with technology that sends signals from the brain to muscles — allowing him to regain some movement in his right arm hand and wrist — is providing novel insights about how the brain reacts to injury.

Two years ago, 24-year-old Ian Burkhart from Dublin, Ohio, had a microchip implanted in his brain, which facilitates the ‘reanimation’ of his right hand, wrist and fingers when he is wired up to equipment in the laboratory. Researchers led by Chad Bouton, currently at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, have been studying Burkhart ever since, and publish their results on 13 April in Nature1.

Previous studies have suggested that after spinal-cord injuries, the brain undergoes ‘reorganization’ — a rewiring of its connections. But this new work suggests that the degree of reorganization occurring after such injuries may be less than previously assumed. “It gives us a lot of hope that there are perhaps not as many neural changes in the brain as we might have imagined after an injury like this, and we can bypass damaged areas of the spinal cord to regain movement,” says Bouton. Previously, such a ‘neural bypass’ had been done in monkeys, and brain signals had been decoded in people and used to animate a robotic prosthetic arm, but this is the first time a person has had their own body part reanimated.

Burkhart — who is paralysed from the shoulders down but can move his shoulders and, to a small extent, his elbow — broke his neck after diving into waves during a beach holiday when he was 19. He later discovered that 25 minutes away from his home, researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus were developing the reanimation technology and decided to volunteer to have the microchip implanted.

Bouton and his colleagues took fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans of Burkhart’s brain while he tried to mirror videos of hand movements. This identified a precise area of the motor cortex — the area of the brain that controls movement — linked to these movements. Surgery was then performed to implant a flexible chip that detects the pattern of electrical activity arising when Burkhart thinks about moving his hand, and relays it through a cable to a computer. Machine-learning algorithms then translate the signal into electrical messages, which are transmitted to a flexible sleeve that wraps around Burkhart’s right forearm and stimulates his muscles. “The first day we hooked it up I was able to get movement, and open and close my hand,” he says (see ‘Ian talks about his new-found movement’)

The study provides insights into the brain’s ability to adapt to and exploit new situations. “It is interesting that, even some years after injury, when these circuits have presumably been sitting there not able to do much, that they still seem to be related to hand movements and haven’t been co-opted by something else,” says Andrew Jackson at Newcastle University, UK, who is separately developing a neural prosthesis to overcome spinal-cord injury.

Burkhart’s brain has also learned to coordinate the activity of his reanimated hand with muscles that he already has some control over. His ability to maintain grip while moving objects has gradually improved, and this has been associated with significant changes in his brain activity. The algorithms developed by Bouton’s team register and adapt to such changes in brain activity — effectively learning with the patient and fine-tuning his movements.

It’s not yet clear whether a neural bypass would work in people who don’t have the type of residual elbow and shoulder movement that Burkhart does, or in people whose muscles are always contracted, a relatively common problem. “Being able to combine the recording of brain signals and produce the muscle contractions to make the hand do the correct things is a big step, but we’re still at a point where we’re talking about something that would benefit a small number of people,” says Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara, who directs the Neural Enhancement Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh.