Using laser to help Parkinson’s disease patients stay mobile
Lise Pape’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago. First, he was prescribed medication, which led to side effects, for which he needed to take more medication. Then, he started developing ‘freezing’ – a sudden inability to move, which can occur several times a day and leads to falls.
One in three people aged 65 or over fall each year in the UK, and the consequences can go beyond the physical trauma from injury. Psychological effects can lead to loss of confidence and independence, while care resulting from falls costs the NHS £2.3 billion a year. At the same time, the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease is expected to double by 2030.
Pape was looking for a less invasive method than a cocktail of drugs to help her father, while studying for a Master’s in Innovation Design Engineering in London. She learned that several studies suggested that visual cues are able to trigger movement during a ‘freeze’, by focusing the person’s attention.
She conducted her own experiments to determine what kind of cues worked best, and settled on laser as the most effective solution, developing a product called Path Finder. When a Parkinson’s patient’s feet become ‘glued’ to the ground, Path Finder emits a laser beam as a visual cue to get moving again, preventing a fall.
Pape has now established a company called Walk With Path, which is working to produce a range of products like Path Finder to help the elderly stay upright.
Path Finder is still in the prototype stage and Pape is working to go to market in two years, while seeking approvals for the product to be classed as a medical device so it can be recommended by healthcare professionals at an accessible price.
Find out more at www.walkwithpath.com
Image courtesy of bluesbby
Last updated: 22nd of August, 2016