The women blazing the trail in Parkinson’s tech and innovation


Author: Almaz OhenePublished: 8 March 2018

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Ciara Clancy

For International Women’s Day, we profile some of the female innovators taking the global Parkinson’s community by storm

Ciara Clancy, Beats Medical (lead image)

Clancy, BSc, PhD, began work on Parkinson’s app Beats Medical in 2012. The app incorporates metronome therapy via auditory cueing through a smartphone and has been available since 2015. The team has since launched additional speech and hand dexterity exercises.

Clancy says: “Metronome therapy has been clinically proven by decades of research to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s such as shortened steps, reduced walking speed and freezing. In Parkinson’s, the signal in the brain that tells you to move can become impaired.

“It’s like a musical beat or sound wave, which acts as an external signal to control movement and help overcome the walking issues. For many years this treatment was provided in hospitals, but was not available at home as the beat/signal needed to be individually tailored.”

Learn more about Beats Medical.

Neha Chaudhry, Walk to Beat

Neha Shahid Chaudhry

Chaudhry is director of the tech company, ‘Walk to Beat’, and inventor of an award-winning vibrating Parkinson’s walking stick prototype. The device detects a pause in motion and sends rhythmic vibrations to the handle, helping the user regain their natural walking motion.

The product design technology graduate, was inspired to invent a mobility aid after witnessing her late grandfather struggle with freezing of gait and subsequent falls, caused by his Parkinson’s. Chaudhry and her team are now in process of finalising the manufacturer and are carrying out all the safety tests – they are very close to getting a basic version of the walking stick to market.

Chaudhry says: “I spent three to four months doing research, talking to patients, going to care homes and attending Parkinson’s UK drop-in sessions. More than the disease itself, a big problem is its impact on social lives. Some other products for people with Parkinson’s have a stigma attached to them – they look like products for disabled people.”

Read the full article on the walking stick.

Lise Pape, Path Finder

Lise Pape

Inspired by her father’s battle with Parkinson’s, design engineer Lise Pape developed ‘Path Finder’ – a shoe that projects laser lines to trigger walking, which prevents freezing of gait. The laser cues are activated by the pressure when the wearer touches down on the ground.

Studies have shown that the futuristic technology can help reduce injuries, ultimately cutting healthcare costs, and improving quality of life for people with Parkinson’s. Last month the Path Finder team launched stockist and partnerships agreements with Parkinson’s UK and France Parkinson.

Pape says: “Having a close family member with Parkinson’s is difficult. It is devastating to watch my father’s deterioration and I have often felt frustrated with being unable to help him. One of his biggest problems has been with freezing. This can be very worrying for the rest of the family. Working on a product that can help improve his quality of life is very important for me.”

Watch the promotional video below.

Read the full article on Path Finder.

Mileha Soneji, ‘Staircase illusion’ and ‘no spill cup’

Mileha Soneji

Product designer Mileha Soneji noticed that her uncle – who lives with Parkinson’s – could walk smoothly up and down stairs, but experienced freezing of gait on flat ground. She found a way to combat this by creating a flat staircase illusion, which is placed on the floor for users to walk over. Results have shown that people with the condition are able to walk more smoothly on the areas where the illusionary mat is placed.

Soneji has also designed the ‘No Spill’ cup to prevent the spillage of liquids from cups held by people experiencing tremors. The cup has a curved shape at the rim and opening, which deflects the liquid back into the cup rather than spilling out. It also features other details to help people with tremors: a large handle and wider base as well as small grooves for extra grip at the fingers.

Soneji said: “I know for a fact that a lot of people living with Parkinson’s are worried they may draw unwanted attention to themselves in public by spilling their drinks because of their tremor…. I’m now getting a lot of requests for the cup and I’m looking for ways to start the mass manufacture process.”

Learn more about Soneji’s innovations.

For comprehensive information about walking and foot care, visit the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA) website.

Read more: Meet EPDA vice-president Susanna Lindvall as she gets involved in #UniteForParkinsons 2018

World Parkinson Congress 2019 Bloggers: Heather Kennedy

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