The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. Mostly when we think of that last part, about reducing burden, we think about translating basic neuroscience research into pharmaceuticals, implantable devices, and other treatments such as gene therapy or stem cell therapy. However, reducing burden is not always accomplished through clinical intervention. Sometimes it simply means restoring happiness, comfort, or dignity to suffering patients.
Recently, a new product funded in part by NINDS Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants has hit the market with the potential to reduce the burden of nearly 11 million individuals worldwide with essential tremor (ET), Parkinson’s disease, and related disorders. Individuals with these disorders experience persistent tremors—or rhythmic shaking—throughout their body, though sufferers of ET shake mostly in their hands. The new product, called the Liftware Stabilizer, is a spoon that counteracts tremors that occur in patients’ hands and helps minimize spills that can make eating in social situations an anxiety-inducing affair.
The way the spoon works is that sensors embedded in the handle detect tremors, which are then compensated for by tiny motors. For example, as the shaking hand dips unexpectedly downward, the motors push the bowl of the spoon upwards relative to the handle just enough to offset the movement. A sharp movement to the right causes the motors to push the bowl back to the left. The net result is that the spoon stays steady and level, even during severe tremors. Attachments can be swapped out to convert the spoon into a fork and a deeper spoon for soup.
The Liftware Stabilizer is made by Lift Labs, a San Francisco-based company that was recently acquired by Google’s Life Sciences division as part of the tech company’s recent flurry of biotechnology firm acquisitions. In addition, the company has raised enough money through foundations and charitable contributions to donate a few hundred spoons to folks who could not otherwise afford one. More…