North­eastern Uni­ver­sity engi­neering researchers are devel­oping new sensing tech­nology that would pro­vide doc­tors with dynamic tools to mea­sure the progress of patients under­going phys­ical therapy from stroke and other injuries.

Our work will bring this impor­tant field of med­ical reha­bil­i­ta­tion fur­ther into the infor­ma­tion tech­nology world of tomorrow,” said Con­stan­tinos Mavroidis, the prin­cipal inves­ti­gator and a pro­fessor in Northeastern’s Depart­ment of Mechan­ical and Indus­trial Engi­neering.

Through a National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion grant, Mavroidis and doc­toral can­di­date Richard Ranky will design tiny sen­sors to be embedded into med­ical devices that are cus­tomized to an individual’s need — for example, a handle or com­puter hard­ware for med­ical mon­i­toring and therapy of a person’s hand.

Under a sep­a­rate grant from the Center for Inte­gra­tion of Med­i­cine and Inno­v­a­tive Tech­nology (CIMIT) they will apply this tech­nology to designing a cus­tomiz­able orthosis brace with embedded sen­sors to fit around the Achilles tendon and sta­bi­lize the ankle and foot, so patients who have just suf­fered a stroke can more safely walk and move around.

This novel approach to both the design of the sen­sors and their simul­ta­neous instal­la­tion into med­ical devices could help stream­line the cre­ation of such devices in the med­ical field, the researchers say.

By com­bining this new tech­nology with its med­ical appli­ca­tion, Mavroidis says doc­tors could mea­sure the strength of a stroke patient’s grasp or the dis­tri­b­u­tion of pres­sure around their lower extrem­i­ties when walking. This infor­ma­tion could be cru­cial to deter­mining a patient’s progress during reha­bil­i­ta­tion exer­cises or even help pre­dict when a device needs replacing based on wear and tear.

The data would be col­lected elec­tron­i­cally and wire­lessly, so that doc­tors could mon­itor patients in person, or even receive the data trans­mitted from a patient in their home.

Now that you can actu­ally put a sensor inside a device and cus­tomize it for the user, this opens up a lot of new pos­si­bil­i­ties for per­son­al­ized reha­bil­i­ta­tion devices,” Ranky said.

On the CIMIT grant project, North­eastern researchers will col­lab­o­rate with Dr. Paolo Bonato and others at Spaulding Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Hos­pital in Boston.

Last year, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity became a member of CIMIT, a pio­neering con­sor­tium of teaching hos­pi­tals, research lab­o­ra­to­ries and engi­neering schools in the Boston area. Northeastern’s excel­lence in use-​​inspired research across mul­tiple areas of sci­en­tific dis­covery will advance the consortium’s mis­sion to make a pro­found impact on grand chal­lenges in health care through engi­neering solutions.

Mavroidis, director of Northeastern’s Bio­med­ical Mecha­tronics Lab­o­ra­tory, and his team have been involved in sev­eral break­through projects at North­eastern, including the Robotic Gait Reha­bil­i­ta­tion (RGR) Trainer for patients with abnormal gait pat­terns and the Active Knee Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Orthotic Device (AKROD) to cor­rect knee hyperextension.