Newly developed shoes help seniors and multiple sclerosis patients walk more easily.
You might not have known that natural neurons in the tails of craw fish utilize background noise in their environments to better sense the movement of predators. In fact, you probably still don't care to know that. But, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University saw potential in this mechanism created and perfected by nature.
Jim Collins leads a team at Wyss working on anticipatory medical and cellular devices, he said this discovery led him to think about medical applications of this phenomenon, "We discovered that you could deliver very small amounts of noise in the form of mechanical vibration to the soles of subject's feet and have them balance better." So much better, in fact, Collins has shown that they can take a 75-year-old and have them balance as well as a 25-year-old when they're using Wyss' vibrating shoes.
Collins points out, "We're really impacting just one small part of the system. And that's changing the amount of information the individual's feet and related parts will detect and send to [the body's] autonomous, automatic balance control system. Even that slight change can significantly improve the ability of a person to balance and now actually move around in their environment."
The insoles are still in the early commercial phase, but that's not the only product spawned from this concept. Collins is also working on a mattress for infants with sleep apnea. "We're developing a vibrating mat that can be used to help infants avoid infant apnea, which can be a major problem, wherein they'll stop breathing during sleep." It turns out that very low amounts of vibration can actually help kids stay out of the apnea cycles that put them in serious danger while sleeping.
And that's not all. Collins' team is hoping to make impacts at the cellular level as well with forays into synthetic gene networks and antibiotic susceptibility tests. He says that Wyss' mission – to fill that odd gap between academic discovery and proof of concept to the commercial space – is proving to be an industry leader in turning interesting ideas into meaningful products.
Source: Everyday Health, Health Matters with Dr. Sanjay Gupta