New technology to aid monitoring of arm disability progress

September 20, 2016

Originally published by SFU News

People with limited use of their arms due to conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy and arthritis will benefit from Simon Fraser University engineering science professor Carlo Menon’s latest research.

With a seven-year, $1.86-million Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Foundation Grant, Menon is developing devices that are designed for use at home or in physiotherapy. The technology will give users real-time measurements of their movements, with minimal interference to normal activity.

“Our goal is to encourage users to exercise and advance their progress with limited or no need for expensive supervision,” says Menon, who most recently has been part of a team advancing new technology for a better bionic hand for amputees.

In addition, the technology will allow users with irreversible arm disabilities to control external devices, including computers, wheelchairs, or home appliances, and send voice commands. The devices, still in the development stage, are designed to speed interaction and reduce arm stress.

"It is cutting-edge research projects like this that make a difference in the lives of others," says SFU’s Vice-President Research, Joy Johnson. "Our commitment to research inspires us to benefit the communities we serve." 

As the technology develops, Menon will continue to work closely with partners including health authorities, rehabilitation hospitals, prosthetic clinics and assisted living residential homes.

“We wanted our partners to be involved right from the very beginning,” says Menon. “Knowledge sharing and collaboration are vital for making this project a success.

“We hope this generous funding from the CIHR will mark the continuation of the productive relationships established between SFU and its partners, all working for the betterment of people’s lives.”

Others receiving CIHR project grants, totaling an additional $2.8 million include:

Health sciences professor Zabrina Brumme, who is working with a global team of biologists on a large-scale data analysis project to advance HIV vaccine and cure research;

William Small, who is examining the experiences of people who inject drugs with direct-acting antiviral treatments, to inform related polices and programs;

Glen Tibbits, of SFU’s Molecular Cardiac Physiology Group, who will receive funding support for his research on the relationship between familial hypertrophy cardiomyopathy (FHC), a congential heart disease and sudden cardiac death;

Chemistry professor David Vocadlo, whose research on better understanding the regulation of gene expression within our DNA will advance the ability to monitor and manipulate gene expression, for the benefit of medical and biotechnological applications.

Vocadlo is one of two researchers to net a bridging grant for his research. Health sciences professor Megan Winters is also a grant recipient, for her study on the impact of bicycle infrastructure investment on population health and health equity, looking specifically at mid-sized cities such as Victoria and Kelowna.