A Robotic Spine Exoskeleton (RoSE) developed by Columbia University researchers is reportedly the first device able to measure 3D stiffness of the human torso.
The researchers, from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, suggest that the RoSE may solve a number of limitations in the spinal braces currently in use and lead to new treatments for spinal deformities.
Their study, which looked at in vitro measurements of torso stiffness and characterized the three-dimensional stiffness of the human torso, was published recently in IEEE Transactions of Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.
“To our knowledge, there are no other studies on dynamic braces like ours. Earlier studies used cadavers, which by definition don’t provide a dynamic picture,” says the study’s principal investigator Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia Engineering and professor of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a media release.
“The RoSE is the first device to measure and modulate the position or forces in all six degrees-of-freedom in specific regions of the torso. This study is foundational and we believe will lead to exciting advances both in characterizing and treating spine deformities.”
Developed in Agrawal’s Robotics and Rehabilitation (ROAR) Laboratory, the RoSE consists of three rings placed on the pelvis, mid-thoracic, and upper-thoracic regions of the spine. The motion of two adjacent rings is controlled by a six-degrees-of-freedom parallel-actuated robot. Overall, the system has 12 degrees-of-freedom controlled by 12 motors.
The RoSE can control the motion of the upper rings with respect to the pelvis ring or apply controlled forces on these rings during the motion. The system can also apply corrective forces in specific directions while still allowing free motion in other directions, the release explains.
Eight healthy male subjects and two male subjects with spine deformities participated in the pilot study, which was designed to characterize the three-dimensional stiffness of their torsos. The researchers used the RoSE, to control the position/orientation of specific cross sections of the subjects’ torsos while simultaneously measuring the exerted forces/moments.
The results showed that the three-dimensional stiffness of the human torso can be characterized using the RoSE and that the spine deformities induce torso stiffness characteristics significantly different from the healthy subjects. Spinal abnormal curves are three-dimensional; hence the stiffness characteristics are curve-specific and depend on the locations of the curve apex on the human torso.
“Our results open up the possibility for designing spine braces that incorporate patient-specific torso stiffness characteristics,” says the study’s co-principal investigator David P. Roye, a spine surgeon and a professor of pediatric orthopedics at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, in the release. “Our findings could also lead to new interventions using dynamic modulation of three-dimensional forces for spine deformity treatment.”
While this first study used a male brace designed for adults, Agrawal and his team have already designed a brace for girls as idiopathic scoliosis is 10 times more common in teenage girls than boys. The team is actively recruiting girls with scoliosis in order to characterize how torso stiffness varies due to such a medical condition, the release continues.
“Directional difference in the stiffness of the spine may help predict which children can potentially benefit from bracing and avoid surgery,” says Agrawal.
[Source(s): Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, Science Daily]