University of Wyoming’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering recently received a grant for more than $520,000 from the National Science Foundation for research on trunk exoskeletons that can prevent and relieve back pain.

Background

In early research funded through Wyoming’s National Institutes of Health IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, the University of Wyoming principal investigators (and their students) conducted research on 12 healthy participants ranging from 18 to 65 years old. They found that the exoskeleton was not providing consistent support in response to various movements the participants were performing such as sitting, standing, and lifting.

Addressing Low Back Pain

Clinical investigator Domen Novak, assistant professor notes “Lower back pain is a health issue we can all relate to,” Novak says. “We hope this research project will lead to low-cost, smart solutions that can relieve and prevent back pain for millions of people all over the world.”

Incorporating smart technology into the device is a key component in the advancement of biomedical research, according to Novak. Using motors and machine-learning algorithms, the exoskeleton could adapt itself to specific wearers and activities, providing personalized support. Practical use in occupations where heavy lifting is present and broad impact on back pain prevention are key objectives in the research.

The Study

Led by assistant professor Domen Novak, the university will introduce intelligent and adaptive components to an exoskeleton prototype originally created by Colorado startup venture Livity Technologies. The original model, reports the University of Wyoming Navigation, limited the patient’s ability to perform dynamic functions with the stabilization needed for effective support or flexibility. This new research objective is to promote useful and comfortable interactions between the device and the patient.

Anonymous research participants will be recruited through local physical therapy offices and other means. UW’s Institutional Review Board will oversee the process to ensure that all procedures are ethically acceptable. Livity Technologies will continue collaboration with Novak’s team throughout the grant to provide exoskeleton maintenance and mechanical development.

Lead Research/Investigator

Domen Novak 

Boyi Dai, associate professor, UW Division of Kinesiology and Health Promotion

Call to Action: Any interest in lower back pain? This research could be of interest for your tracking. TrialSite News can introduce you to the investigators via our TrialSite Network concierge service.

Source: UW Navigation

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