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IOTA -- Isolated Orthosis for Thumb Actuation

A lightweight, portable robotic thumb exoskeleton for at-home rehabilitation

The IOTA is an exoskeleton that assists with thumb motion and could augment rehabilitation in the clinic and at home.

Routine everyday tasks such as squeezing toothpaste onto a toothbrush or eating with a fork and knife require an opposable thumb for precise grasping between thumb and fingers. Patients with stroke, soldiers with major brain injury, children with cerebral palsy and many others fail to develop this ability or they lose it, which can sometimes cause their thumb to become flexed into the palm. Today clinicians may inject these children with botulinum toxin (Botox) to relax spastic muscles, fit them with devices that passively stretch the thumb and palm muscles, surgically release the contracted muscles, or use some combination of these treatments. Each of these is followed by an extended course of one-on-one physical therapy in a clinic, which can be inconvenient and expensive.

The Wyss Solution

Wyss Institute researchers, in collaboration with clinicians at Boston Children's Hospital, have developed a flexible, lightweight, portable robotic thumb exoskeleton for at-home rehabilitation of the thumb. The Isolated Orthosis for Thumb Actuation (IOTA) fits over the child's hand and assists with two important thumb movements that are impaired in this condition: flexing and extending of the joint next to the webbing of the thumb, and opening and closing of the thumb to the fingers like a hand puppet. Embedded sensors sense thumb and wrist movements, and a small portable computer interprets that information and assists the patient's movements. Eventually occupational therapists may be able to use IOTA to provide therapy from remote locations, and patients may be able to use it to rehabilitate themselves at home, saving time and money.

Potential applications:

  • May assist in training or retraining grasping motions in children with cerebral palsy, stroke patients, or individuals with traumatic brain injury.
  • May help soldiers with major brain injury relearn how to use their hands.
  • May help patients with muscular sclerosis or muscular dystrophy maintain hand function and their independence.
We've won a Webby Award!

Wyss Institute is a winner of the 2012 Webby Awards in the Science category.