Pain reducing tech suit on export
Garments designed to reduce pain and spasms for patients with brain damage – yes, this is done at KTH. More than ten years ago, researchers Johan Gawell and Jonas Wistrand at the Department of Machine Design produced a prototype of the bodysuit Exopulse. Earlier this year, the company behind the suit was bought by the German med-tech company Ottobock.
In April 2010, the TV program Draknästet featured 6-year-old Joanna, who was bound in a wheelchair. She could only walk short distances with a walker. But with the help of a special suit, she was able to walk certain distances entirely without assistance. The person behind the suit, chiropractor Fredrik Lundqvist, received the dragons' approval and one million kronor to develop his invention further.
Joanna used an early prototype of Exopulse. But it was two young researchers at KTH that made chiropractor Fredrik Lundqvist’s idea of sewing electrical stimuli into clothes real. Johan Gawell and Jonas Wistrand at the Department of Machine Design developed a prototype for the garment.
The suit they created has built-in electrodes that, with the help of electrical impulses, stimulate the muscles and reduce their spasticity and tension, and this way, the pain for the patients is also relieved.
Eases uncontrolled spasms
About half a million people in Sweden live with neurological diagnoses today. Stroke, traumatic brain injury, brain damage from tumors and cerebral palsy, stroke, MS and Parkinson's are some condition that the suit can help. Many suffer from chronic pain, spasms they can’t control and limited mobility.
Usual treatments of patients with movement difficulties and pain due to neurological damage can often require surgery, injections of botolinumtoxin (neurotoxin), or strong medications. Electrical stimulation as pain relief is nothing new, but attaching individual electrodes to the body is time-consuming. The elastic bodysuit is a handy alternative and has improved life for many patients.
The suit is made out of swimsuit material with conductive elastic sewn into it. Battery-powered light current is conducted via silver wires to 58 electrodes attached to the inside of the garment, which in turn stimulate as many as distinct 42 muscles, according to the patient’s needs.
The patient uses the garments for a few hours, three times a week, but the effect can last for two days.
The product was initially called Elektrodress, later becoming Mollii Dress. In 2013 the product was awarded the Robotdalen Innovation Award. Today, the suit goes by the name Exopulse and is sold by Fredrik Lundqvist's company, Exoneural Network. Earlier this year, the company was acquired by the German medical technology company Ottobock.
Text: Anna Gullers