Ankle joint robot wins CUHK students gold prize in innovation competition
At the 8th China International College Students’ “Internet+” Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, CUHK students received four awards: a gold prize, two silver prizes as well as a bronze prize. The Fleming MedLab team in particular won gold for its medical robotics start-up project focusing on stroke rehabilitation. CUHK Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Sham Mai-har said, “Since 2014, CUHK has supported more than 170 start-up companies/projects,” and that “the University will continue to apply its world-class research discoveries to generate a translational impact on a local, national and global scale.”
Strokes occur when blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. This causes cell death and in turn leads to various symptoms, which may include paralysis. Stroke patients can develop motor dysfunction, and the damaged cells require lengthy recovery time, which may also vary according to the original stroke’s severity. The medical start-up that is Fleming MedLab focuses on developing robots that assist the rehabilitation of stroke patients. It was co-founded by Edwin Ty Pak-sing, a CUHK master’s student in physics, and Kelvin Heung Ho-lam, a CUHK PhD graduate in biomedical engineering. Using patented technologies based on neuroscientific principles and soft robotics, they have developed Fleming Ankle, a lightweight, easy-to-use, medical-grade, wearable robot.
With Fleming Ankle, sensors in the device can analyse the wearer’s intention to walk by detecting muscle movements and the electrical current inside those muscles, whereupon the soft robot, fitted at the ankle joint, helps support patient movement. Therapists can track patients’ rehabilitation progress through the device’s software, allowing them to predict the prognosis and formulate rehabilitation plans accordingly. Depending on the severity of the disease, clinical trials have proven that stroke patients who regularly use the device for walking training can recover the function of their damaged nerves by 30% to 70%. Fleming Ankle is ready for a soft launch in the first quarter of 2023, and is expected to have a price 10 times more affordable compared to similar products on the market.