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Bionic Insole Helps Overcome Neuropathic Instability

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 15 Nov 2021
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Image: The Augmented Vibrotexture bionic insole (Photo courtesy of Anna Hatton/ UQ)
Image: The Augmented Vibrotexture bionic insole (Photo courtesy of Anna Hatton/ UQ)
A novel orthotic shoe insole help people with nerve damage maintain their balance, promoting safe, active, and independent living.

Designed at the University of Queensland (UQ; Brisbane, Australia), Walk with Path (Waltham Abbey, United Kingdom), and other partners, the new bionic technology, Augmented Vibrotexture, is based on a hybrid shoe insole that combines vibration and a geometric textured surface that provide proprioceptive stimuli to the soles of the feet. This provides feedback along the major sensory nerves that carry touch, vibration, and position sensation from the feet to the brain to help maintain balance.

The insoles are operated by a mobile app that tracks the user’s health and also allows remote health monitoring between patients and clinicians. A wide product range is currently under development, which will include insoles for those with neuropathy, balance issues due to other medical conditions, and a product that targets general health and well-being. The insole was recently awarded the major category prize in the 2021 Queensland Bionics Challenge, receiving AUD 50,000 in prize money and an eight-week mentoring program.

“One in six people will experience foot sensory loss due to numerous types of neuropathy, and up to 65% of people with this nerve damage will fall each year,” said Anna Hatton, PhD, of the UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “This is the first time a shoe insole has been developed with a hybrid design like this that provides two different types of sensory stimuli. We will be consulting with patients and key stakeholders in the design process and will use AI to measure brain activity in response to the foot sensory experience.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO; Geneva, Switzerland), an elderly person is seen to every 11 seconds in an emergency room after a fall, and up to 30% of people over 65 and 50% of those over 80 fall at least once a year. The result of a majority of these falls is a hip fracture, with about 60,000 elderly people dying every year as a result of such falls.

Related Links:
University of Queensland
Walk with Path
World Health Organization



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