May 7, 2019
Accurate and sensitive measurement of hand and arm movements are required when determining if a new therapy improves functional recovery following a spinal cord injury (SCI). A novel therapy tool called RePlay invented by researchers at the Texas Biomedical Device Center at The University of Texas at Dallas has demonstrated a robust system for objective measures of hand and arm movements during rehabilitation.
The RePlay system was developed by recent graduate Dr. Katy Millay under the leadership of Dr. Jane Wigginton, chief medical officer at TxBDC and an Associate Professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The findings show that this tool provides accurate and objective measures of hand movements that compare with state-of-the-art assessments used with spinal cord patients.
The results of the study were published April 11 in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation. Researchers at the TxBDC plan to use this system in upcoming clinical trials with spinal cord patients undergoing Targeted Plasticity Therapy (TPT).
TPT is a technique developed at the TxBDC. It pairs hand and arm movements with precisely timed vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Stimulating the vagus nerve causes the release of chemicals in the brain that enhance learning during rehabilitation. These tools allow our researchers to deliver vagus nerve stimulation during hand and arm movements at just the right time. Our early studies show that TPT generates 3 times the recovery compared to rehabilitation alone. If successful, this approach will allow some SCI patients to once again use their hands and arms to independently perform daily activities such as eating with utensils or opening a door.
“Spinal cord injury affects more than 300,000 people in the US” said Dr. Jane Wigginton. “Patients need a real solution so they can get back to fully living their lives.”
Clinical trials using TPT to improve hand and arm function are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2019. For more information, visit utdallas.edu/txbdc/trials.