A glove that may help Parkinson's patients

A team of researchers at Western University has developed a prototype glove that can distinguish between tremors and voluntary movements made by people suffering from Parkinson's Disease, suppressing the tremors and allowing patients to perform daily activities like eating and dressing.

Western University has produced a prototype that suppresses tremors in people with Parkinson's disease

PhD student Yue Zhou wears a prototype of a tremor suppression glove he helped develop at Western University. The device distinguishes between voluntary motions and involuntary tremors, which could offer independence to many with Parkinson's disease. (Western University)
A team of Western University researchers has developed a prototype of a new tremor suppression glove that may provide independent living to those with Parkinson's Disease.

Worldwide, it's estimated that up to 10 million people have Parkinson's, which can produce tremors that make daily activities like eating and dressing difficult.

The glove, which took four years of research to develop, could be the most advanced device for assisting Parkinson's patients yet.

"I believe that with a technology like this, [patients] could remain independent for longer," said Ana Luisa Trejos, an assistant professor in Western's department of electrical and computer engineering. "They could perform activities of daily living in a more effective manner for a longer amount of time."
Michael Naish from Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Western and Ana Luisa Trejos from Electrical and Computer Engineering at Western examine a prototype of a wearable tremor suppression glove modeled by Western doctoral student Yue Zhou, who 3D-printed its key components. (Western University)
Trejos led a team that created the prototype. It was designed to fit on the left hand of graduate student Yue Zhou, and future copies will be custom-fit to a patient's hand and forearm. Using a series of motors and sensors, the glove can distinguish between motions a patient is trying to make voluntarily and tremors that are involuntary.

"We're able to filter out and suppress the component that is the tremor, while allowing the voluntary motions to still go through," Trejos said.

That's an improvement on previous glove devices, which would stop a tremor by suppressing all motion in the fingers, hand, wrist and forearm.

Though the researchers are waiting on ethics approval to test it on Parkinson's patients, the software that controls the glove was developed through the participation of research subjects with Parkinson's.

Trejos says the idea has been submitted for intellectual property disclosure.

While it's difficult to put a precise cost on the device — which was partially constructed using 3D printing — Trejos says she believes it can be built for under $1,000.

"Our goal is to really get it out there for people to be able to use it, so potentially if a company is interested in commercializing the product, then we'd be on board with supporting that," she said.