Honda R&D Americas has received a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) to study the safety and impact of its Walking Assist Device in Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients.
In partnership with the Ohio State University, the company will perform a Phase II randomised controlled clinical trial to evaluate an eight-week intervention with the device for improving mobility in patients.
Designed for training, the Honda Walking Assist Device consists of a hip frame, motors and thigh frame.
The hip frame consists of the control computer and battery, while motors contain parts for transferring the force to the legs. The thigh frame guides the lower legs’ beginning and kicking movement.
Sensors are embedded into the motors to detect the movement of the hip joint and guide the lower legs movement via assistance in bending and extension of the joint using computer controlled motors.
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The robotic device measures the left-right symmetry, movable angle range, walking speed and additional characteristics while walking.
These characteristics are cross-checked against the measurement history of the user.
The device is intended to enable more efficient and symmetrical walking patterns for people who can walk but have gait deficits due to stroke.
Honda R&D Americas lead research engineer Kenton Williams said: “We have a large body of evidence which suggests that the Honda Walking Assist Device safely and effectively improves the mobility of individuals affected by stroke.
“We are excited to understand how the device also can help support individuals with other neurological conditions such as PD.”
The main objective of the new trial, which is set to begin early this year, is to gain insights into the long- and short-term effect of mechanical gait assistance on the ease and efficiency of walking.
In addition, the study will establish if training using the device can help patients walk better and be more active in daily activities.
The charity Parkinson’s UK has estimated that Parkinson’s diagnoses are set to rise by nearly a fifth by 2025 and soon one in every 37 people will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime.
Additional reporting by Charlotte Edwards.