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NTHU Researchers Spearhead a Major Leap Forward in Medical Technology
An interdisciplinary research team led by NTHU’s Professor James Chang has developed a wearable robotic hand nimble enough to make a fist and complex gestures, and detailed information on all its movements can be simultaneously transmitted to a cloud database. Specially designed to assist the recovery of patients with stroke, this device is currently undergoing clinical trials. The participating physicians are planning to use the resulting data to establish a related database, opening a new page in the history of medical technology.
 
Professor Chang said that stroke typically impairs the normal dexterity of the fingers, but such condition can be recovered by re-establishing the connection among damaged nerves. This reconnection can be achieved by extensive amount of precise rehabilitative exercise leading to production of biodata pertaining to the muscle tension of the patient’s hands, and in the traditional approach to rehabilitation, such data has to be obtained qualitatively and quantitatively by medical staff working personally with the patient. Nowadays, however, Chang’s robotic hand promises to automatically provide the same essential data in precise digital form, thereby revolutionizing the rehabilitation process.
 
With support from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the research team spent nearly three years working in conjunction with Professor Mao-Jiun Wang of NTHU’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management and Dr. Yu-Cheng Pei of the Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. The robotic hand they developed includes a system for detecting muscle tension, and also monitors the elasticity and movements of the finger joints.
 
Mr. Shu-Wei Pu, a Ph.D. candidate of the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering, was the main developer of the robotic hand. According to Pu, the system can accurately record the tension of each finger, analyze the data, respond to the patient's current situation, and upload all this data to a cloud database monitored by the patient’s doctor, “Something traditional rehabilitation couldn’t even dream of!"
 
Doctor Pei says that winter is the peak season for strokes, and during cooler weather stroke patients find it increasingly difficult to control their limbs, making it hard to take care of themselves. He also indicates that the majority of stroke patients have upper limb paralysis, and that spasticity and muscle weakness impair joint movement, such as the hand’s ability to grip and extend the fingers.
 
Dr. Pei further points out that the physician can program the robotic hand to accurately replicate a wide variety of movements required in rehabilitation. Thus, whenever he finds it convenient, the patient can use the device to assist with gentle movements of the joints while carefully monitoring his hand tension. Such self-service devices help to reduce the cost of medical care.
 
Through the guidance of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Instrument Technology Research Center of the National Applied Research Laboratories, NTHU has been awarded a patent for this device, which is now being developed by a company specially set up at the Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park. The research team is currently working on the development of a robotic hand which works in conjunction with the stroke patient’s voluntary control.
 
Prof. James Chang (right) and Mr. Shu-Wei Pu are key members of an interdisciplinary research team that has developed a wearable robotic hand for providing robot-assisted rehabilitation for stroke patients.

Prof. James Chang (right) and Mr. Shu-Wei Pu are key members of an interdisciplinary research team that has developed a wearable robotic hand for providing robot-assisted rehabilitation for stroke patients.

The wearable robotic hand gathers essential information on the patient’s condition and transmits it to a cloud database.

The wearable robotic hand gathers essential information on the patient’s condition and transmits it to a cloud database.

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