Treatments & Research

Georgia Tech and Shriners Hospitals Launch Collaborative Research Effort

Shriners Hospitals for Children and Georgia Tech join forces to improve lives

To help young people struggling with conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, clubfoot, scoliosis and osteogenesis imper-fecta, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Georgia Institute of Technology have launched an ambitious collaborative research effort. Their work includes the development of devices to facilitate limb movement and function.

An ambitious affiliation

The new research affiliation brings together the clinical, surgical and scientific expertise of Shriners Hospitals for Children physicians and researchers with Georgia Tech’s expertise in biomedical engineering, robotics and device development. The effort also will leverage the two organizations’ work in big data and artificial intelligence tools for personalized medicine, according to Marc Lalande, Ph.D., vice president of research programs for Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Remarkable robotics

Several joint projects already are underway. Jaydev Desai, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University, is working with Scott Kozin, M.D., chief of staff and hand surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia, on a wearable, customized, robotic exoskeleton with voice recognition for kids with cervical spine injury. “This is a patient-specific system for kids with spinal cord injury,” explained Desai, who is director of the Georgia Center for Medical Robotics and associate director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines. “The system is designed to translate voice commands into actions, meaning the exoskeleton will conform to the proper shape and posture of the fingers. The idea is to enhance the child’s ability to perform the activities of daily life.”

Additionally, Aaron Young, assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, is working with David Westberry, M.D., pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville, on a smart robotic exoskeleton designed to address excessive knee flexion (crouch gait). The condition is common in patients with cerebral palsy and can lead to permanent joint deformity if untreated, as well as reduced independence and mobility. “Our lab has piloted multiple pediatric projects, but this project represents a quantum leap, taking our work to the next level, in a real-world pediatric care setting. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a perfect fit for us,” said Dongmei Wang, professor of BME at Georgia Tech, where she is director of the Biomedical Informatics and Bioimaging (Bio-MIB) Lab.