Our society is aging. Motoric disabilities increase with age, which means there will be more and more people with restricted mobility.
The Medical Delta Improving Mobility with Technology program focuses on the development of accurate diagnostics and treatments to improve mobility. This program consists of two tracks: the rehabilitation track and the orthopaedics track, each with three themes.
Rehabilitation: practice in a safe manner
The rehabilitation track focuses on outcome prediction, precision diagnostics and unsupervised training. The latter aims at maintaining balance in people who learn to walk again after a stroke. Rehabilitation techniques in the field of robotics are used for treatment.
“Therapy intensity is a major determinant for a positive outcome, but there is simply not enough individualized supervision by professionals to guide the patient”, says Jaap Harlaar, professor of Clinical Biomechatronics at TU Delft. “The aim of our project is to let people practice more intensely in the rehab center and at home in a safe manner, by developing equipment they can use to practice unsupervised.”
Recently Heike Vallery, professor at TU Delft, demonstrated the feasibility of a new wearable balance assistance backpack to help people walk with more stability and to keep balance. Together with professor Ribbers from the rehabilitation center Rijndam, professor Vallery will develop this backpack and other wearables to incorporate safe gait training into clinical practice. Implementation in clinical practice will involve the Medical Delta Living Lab Rehabilitation Technology.
Orthopaedics: multiscale modelling
The second track focuses on orthopedics: the safety of arthroplasties, sports injuries and, in particular, osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of physical disability worldwide and involves the degeneration of joint cartilage. Working together, researchers from the Medical Delta combine their expertise in epidemiology, the biomechanics of gait, tissue and cell research, and dynamic imaging techniques. In this project, the researchers focus on multiscale modeling, in which biomechanical computational models are made at all levels and combined to gain better insights into the effects of load on cartilage.
Choosing the right therapy to improve patients’ mobility requires knowledge of the etiology. This ‘precision diagnostics’ is a focus for both tracks. “We want to maximize the treatment effect by selecting the optimal option; we don’t want to over-treat or under-treat the patient,” says Harlaar.
In this consortium, Erasmus MC, TU Delft and LUMC will collaborate closely. The Living Labs will also be involved in early prototype testing.
Photo: Project MARCH