Posts tagged: Professor Laurence Kenney

Researchers win £1.4m bid to improve prosthetics in Uganda and Jordan

UNIVERSITY of Salford researchers have won a £1.4m grant to look into ways of providing better upper limb prostheses for people in lower and middle income countries.

The project will enable researchers at the University – one of only two in the UK that teach prosthetics and orthotics – to develop better, low cost prostheses.

The funding has come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) who are committing £16m to a range of projects through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a £1.5b government fund to support cutting-edge technology that addresses challenges faced by low and middle income countries.

The team will be partnering with Makere University in Uganda and the University of Jordan, as well as University College London (UCL), and the Universities of Southampton and Greenwich.

New ways of making prosthetic limbs 

Engineering and clinical researchers across the three countries will collaborate to develop new designs, as well as novel ways of creating, fitting and evaluating how well the prosthetic limbs work, enabling more people to benefit from them.

Earlier this year, a team of prosthetics students from the University were able to create prosthetic upper limbs for a Ugandan woman who had suffered a horrific machete attack. The students built the prosthetic limbs in the University’s own Brian Blatchford lab before they were sent to Uganda to be fitted.

In many poorer countries, there is a huge demand for prosthetic limbs, because of problems with conflict or road traffic accidents, but there are very few hospitals and medical centres able to provide this specialist work, and few clinicians able to help patients maintain the limbs once fitted.

Researchers at the University believe simple ‘body powered prostheses’, which work by using cables to link the movement of the body with the artificial limb, could be the answer as they are easy to manufacture and maintain.

Researchers hope to address problems

Amputees in Africa and the Middle East often have very poor access to prosthetic services and the devices they are offered are often not fit for purpose, being expensive, providing limited function and being uncomfortable to use.  Researchers working on the project now hope to address these problems.

The two countries were chosen because of the unique challenges they face. While Uganda is one of the least developed countries in the world, with poorly resourced and fragmented rehabilitation services, Jordan is classed as an ‘upper middle income country’ with well-trained clinicians, but facing huge pressure on its prosthetic services partly because of regional conflicts.

The University of Salford is also now collaborating in two other projects in the area of prosthetics, also funded through the Global Challenges Fund of EPSRC – one led by the University of Southampton and another led by Imperial College London.

Life changing experience

Losing an arm is always a horrific and life changing experience, but in many lower or middle income countries it can have a truly devastating effect. It can deprive people already existing at a subsistence level of any ability to support themselves or their families.

Professor Laurence Kenney, research co-lead for Rehabilitation Technologies and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Salford, said: “Losing an arm is always a horrific and life changing experience, but in many lower or middle income countries it can have a truly devastating effect. It can deprive people already existing at a subsistence level of any ability to support themselves or their families.

“Sadly, it is these countries where there is a greater need for prostheses, but for a whole host of reasons it is incredibly difficult for anyone who needs an artificial limb to be able to get one.

“This much-needed research project will enable us to bring together an experienced team in the UK, Uganda and Jordan who can create better prostheses, designed for use in lower and middle income countries across the world, which I hope will have a long term impact on millions of people.”

Young scientists to present research at House of Commons

Young Salford scientists have been selected to present their research at the House of Commons.House of Commons

Sun Mingxu, 32, and Alix Chadwell, 28, will unveil projects to help stroke patients and amputees respectively at the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics STEM for Britain event on March 13, 2017.

The event is organized by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, together with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics and the Society of Biology.

Dr Mingxu, a BSc Computer Science graduate, originally from Shandong in China, is a postdoctoral researcher with the cross-school Rehabilitation technologies and Biomedical Engineering group where he’s currently engaged in a National Institute of Health Research funded project to develop an advanced  functional  electrical  stimulation  system  for  stroke rehabilitation. The project is led by professors Laurence Kenney (School of Health Sciences) and David Howard (School of Computing, Science and Engineering).

Medical engineer

Alix Chadwell, a medical engineering graduate from the University of Bath, is conducting her PhD at Salford University into improvements in myoelectric upper-limb prosthesis.

There are 130,000 new stroke cases each year in the UK and, of those who survive, the majority find themselves having to adjust to life with reduced function in their upper limbs. Intensively movement early after stroke can lead to long term improvements but this is impeded by limited NHS therapy time.

Sun MingxuWorking with Odstock Medical, Sun Mingxu (pictured left) has developed a novel system which allows a patient to practise movements with much-reduced support from their therapist, and provides the clinician with data on their performance both during and after practice. The new system has recently received  MHRA  approval  for  a  clinical  investigation, which is now running at three clinical sites. Providing the results are positive, the manufacturers hope to commercialise the system later this year.

Alix Chadwell’s research aims to establish why it is that some users of myoelectric prostheses can find their devices difficult to control. She has developed a portable system allowing her to assess users outside of the laboratory and has begun measuring how well users can control the required muscle  signals,  how  well  the  electrodes  can collect these signals, overall functionality and  patterns of prosthesis use in everyday life.

Supportive culture

Alix ChadwellAlix (pictured left) said: “My interest in the design of prostheses brought me to Salford in 2014 and I am very glad I made that decision. Having previously trained as an Engineer, my highlight has been working alongside colleagues from both technical and clinical backgrounds, which  I  believe  is  key  to  developing solutions which are clinically applicable. I have found my supervisory team and the wider research group to be extremely supportive and my knowledge and interest in the field has expanded significantly. I look forward to seeing where it will take me next.”

School of Health Sciences Dean, Kay Hack said: “Many congratulations to Mingxu and Alix on their involvement in STEM for Britain.

“Their selection for this prestigious event is well-deserved and a testament to the quality of their research and the excellent support we offer to early career researchers at the University of Salford. The work they are doing not only extends knowledge in these areas but will make a real impact  on  people’s  lives.

“To present at the House of Commons is a wonderful opportunity to meet some important figures in STEM and importantly also to make their mark as rising stars in their field. I hope they enjoy it.”