European Crucible 2022 Interdisciplinary Project Award - “Biodegradable wearable wireless Peizoelectric Nanosensors for personalised Motor-neuro rehabilitation”

  • Aruna Ivaturi (Recipient)
  • Saihong Li (Recipient)
  • Mohammad Fatouhi (Recipient)
  • Pierre-Yves Ronan (Recipient)
  • Adnane Saoud (Recipient)
  • Aranceta-Garza, A. (Recipient)

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Healthcare systems are burdened with increasing number of elderly and people with disabilities every year. Personalised rehabilitation and assistive devices play an important role in supporting the growing healthcare demand. Electromyography (EMG) is a tool used for motor-neuro rehabilitation and used for diagnosis of muscle conditions, rehabilitation, and prosthetic control e.g. for monitoring neuromuscular pathologies, in prevention of work-related disorders and occupational therapy, and in monitoring neuromuscular changes/progress in acute patients. Moreover, EMG helps in assessing the health of muscles and has the potential to assess nerve cells that control them (motor neurons). This can reveal nerve or muscle dysfunction, or problems with nerve-to-muscle signal transmission. There are two kinds of EMG: surface EMG and intramuscular EMG. Surface EMG (sEMG) assesses muscle function by recording muscle activity from the surface above the muscle on the skin and is recorded by a pair of electrodes or by a more complex array of multiple electrodes.

Intramuscular EMG (iEMG) records the muscle activity directly at the muscle fibres by inserting needle electrodes in the form of a fine wire.

By far, sEMG remains the preferred choice due to it is non-invasive nature, however, its practical use remains significantly underexploited and the state-of-the-art technology lags expectations. This is attributed to technical and cultural limitations. The technical and methodological problems arise due to electrode-skin impedance, electromagnetic noise, electrode location and size, configuration and distance, presence of crosstalk signals, comfort issues, selection of appropriate sensor setup, amplitude normalization, definition of correct surface EMG-related outcomes and normative data that needs to be resolved or minimized. Whereas the cultural limitations leading to issues with user acceptance and routine adherence lie in the traditional use of qualitative approaches at the expense of quantitative measurement-based monitoring methods to design and assess ergonomic interventions and train operators.

Another challenge with the existing technology, especially the sEMG is that they are mostly electrode patches based on plastic and/non-biodegradable materials. Plastic waste is a worldwide issue and one of the major contributors are the hospitals/ medical settings, producing 5 million tonnes of waste annually, e.g. NHS creates 133,000 tonnes of plastic annually with only 5% of it being recyclable.

To address the above limitations and to bridge the gap between the technology and rehabilitation via sustainable approach, we propose to develop highly sensitive biodegradable wearable wireless piezoelectric nanosensors for personalised motor-neuro rehabilitation. To achieve this aim, we will first understand the technical and cultural challenges and limitation of the present sEMG technology from the user perspective. This will include understanding any scientific language barriers that the users might be facing which is posing a hurdle for the acceptance of the technology. An online survey will be created to gather information about these limitation and challenges, which will help in design protocols of the novel wearable wireless piezoelectric nanosensors. For the biodegradable nanosensors, we will develop sensors based on biopolymers like chitosan, poly-L-lactide, glycine-chitosan that are also biocompatible. For easier user acceptance, the sensors will be monitored wirelessly via a user-friendly platform which will be developed based on the machine learning protocols. Finally, a pilot study is planned with 3-5 volunteers to validate the developed sensors against the existing sEMG sensors (Trigno Avanti, Delsys, U.S.A.).
Period1 Oct 202231 Oct 2023
Degree of RecognitionInternational