Stroke survivors may soon be able to improve their rehabilitative success at home by using a robotic glove fitted with sensors, developed by European scientists. Jim Drury reports.
Two years ago Shani Shamah suffered a double stroke, and wasn't expected to survive. But with intensive rehab and sheer bloodymindedness, she now leads a normal life. SOUNDBITE (English) DOUBLE STROKE SURVIVOR, SHANI SHAMAH, SAYING: "I lost my speech, I lost the use of the whole of my left side, leg, arm, shoulder, hand, and through intensive physio in a special rehab unit I was re-taught to walk and to use my arm and hand." Now she's testing out SCRIPT, a robotic glove created by researchers led by Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian from the University of Hertfordshire. The associate professor says the glove helps overcome the hand and wrist damage typically associated with strokes. SOUNDBITE (English) DR FARSHID AMIRABDOLLAHIAN, SCRIPT CO-ORDINATOR, FROM UNIVERSITY OF HERTFORDSHIRE, SAYING: "The hand and wrist are in an abnormal position, the hand is fully closed, and the wrist is flexed, and what we want to do is to open the hand and extend the wrist, so that people can regain a normal posture of the hand and wrist and then they can practise the therapy. The glove that we designed provides some offset forces, so the fingers are pulled open and the wrist is pulled into full extension." The glove has sensors that allow therapists to monitor patients' progress remotely. System integrator Naila Rahman says this helps patients treat themselves once they've left hospital. SOUNDBITE (English) NAILA RAHMAN, SCRIPT INTEGRATOR, UNIVERSITY OF HERTFORDSHIRE, SAYING: "It allows the user to train in their own time. The trainer can train first thing in the morning, late in the evening when they come home from work basically, and they're not tied up to the therapist's availability." Captured data helps patients tailor their therapy, using specialised video games. So what does Shani Shamah think of SCRIPT? SOUNDBITE (English) DOUBLE STROKE SURVIVOR, SHANI SHAMAH, SAYING: "I'm only sorry I didn't have the advantage of having this when I was rehab. It's very boring when you just sit at a table and take out a ball from a box and put it down on the table next to you, and playing with theraputty, rolling it backwards and forwards.....So I think for general use it would be brilliant." Part funded by the European Commission, more investment is required before the prototype is perfected, but it could be ready within two years. Amirabdollahian says each glove will cost less than 10,000 dollars and could revolutionise the treatment of acute stroke sufferers.