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This tiny chip could revolutionize treatment for stroke survivors

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Posted at 2:32 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 14:35:09-04

DALLAS — Buried deep in a complex web of equations are the answers Dr. Michael Kilgard is looking for, as a researcher at UT Dallas his life’s research has been dedicated to helping Americans who have suffered from a stroke.

"It's very unlikely we’ll be able to develop a new cure for treatment, so what else can we do?" he said in a recent interview.

But Dr. Kilgard and his team have developed a revolutionary new device that could change everything for stroke victims.

For years, doctors have relied on a fairly large stimulator device implanted near the neck of a stroke victim to stimulate the vagus nerve during physical therapy. The nerve tells the brain how to do everything from gripping a fork, to walking. Now though, this team at UT Dallas has received approval to move forward with clinical trials for a much smaller device that's about the size of a penny.

"Our goal is to understand the brain to reprogram circuits so things that are happening that shouldn’t be happening, stop," Dr. Kilgard said.

During physical therapy sessions, patients wear a small necklace. It communicates to what's called the RESTORE device in their neck and then tells the brain to move beyond what stroke victims may be limited to.

"Most people can’t feel it. This is happening subconsciously to them," he added.

Rob Rennaker is also on the research team here. He is a former Marine who sees the potential of the device expanding beyond treatment for stroke victims. It's also been used to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

"Our device makes it so much simpler, you put it in, forget about it and it’s done," Rennaker.

For now, this team will continue with their clinical trials. Hoping that in the very near future this tiny device can make a big difference for stroke victims.