Indian-origin engineer developing dynamic braces for children

Washington, Sep 24 (IANS) An Indian-origin engineering professor in the US is developing dynamic spine braces for children that are more flexible than the rigid braces presently in use, a Columbia University statement said.

Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering and of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine, is developing the flexible braces in collaboration with David P. Roye, St. Giles Foundation professor of pediatric orthopedic surgery at the Columbia University Medical Centre, and Charles Kim, professor of mechanical engineering at Bucknell University, according to the university.

“Every year, 30,000 children use a rigid brace to treat scoliosis, while 38,000 patients undergo spinal fusion surgery, so this award will make a big difference,” Agrawal was quoted as saying.

The rigid braces now in use have several shortcomings. They “freeze” the child’s upper body and limit movement to such an extent that users often avoid wearing the brace.

As the child grows, the required external forces to correct the abnormal posture change along the length of the curve and over the course of treatment.

“If we can design a flexible brace that modulates the corrective forces on the spine in desired directions while still allowing the users to perform typical everyday activities, we will bring revolutionary change to the field,” he added.

Agrawal and his team have already developed prototype spine braces.

The team, which has drawn together experts in robotics and pediatric orthopedics, plans to test the braces on children with scoliosis at the Columbia University Medical Centre.

“Scoliosis impacts the quality of life of those affected, limiting their activity, causing pain, and diminishing their self-esteem,” Agrawal said.

“We expect our work will transform treatment due to the ability of the brace to modulate force or position at specific locations of the spine and will greatly improve the quality of life for children with this debilitating condition,” he added.

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