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Leg Sleeve for Neurological Mobility Issues: Interview with Jeremiah Robison, Cionic CEO

Conn Hastings |

Cionic, a medtech company based in San Francisco, created the Neural Sleeve, a wearable that is designed to enhance movement for those with mobility issues.

The company describes its device as a bionic garment, and it has recently been cleared by the FDA for use in those with neurological conditions that can impair mobility, such as Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis.

Walking is an essential activity that many of us take for granted, but for those with mobility issues it can be a taxing process, with the potential for trips and falls ever present.

This risk means that such people put a lot more conscious effort into walking safely.

A device that can help to smooth this process and reduce the chances of falling would be very useful in enhancing quality of life.

Designed to be worn on the leg, the Sleeve senses the wearer’s movements and then calculates an appropriate level of electrical stimulation to apply to four major muscle groups in the leg.

The muscle stimulation is intended to enhance movement by improving stability and foot clearance during walking.  

Here’s a company video introducing the technology:

Medgadget had the opportunity to speak with Jeremiah Robison, Cionic CEO, about the technology.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us an overview of how mobility issues are currently treated. How is this suboptimal?

Jeremiah Robison, Cionic: Physical therapy is great, but unfortunately it is at most a few hours a week for a couple of months. So, the most common intervention at home is rigid bracing, walkers, canes, and wheelchairs. These fail to address the underlying neuromuscular system, and rather than helping to strengthen muscles and reinforce neuroplasticity, they often accelerate muscle weakness and a decline in community participation.

Medgadget: What inspired you to develop this technology? How did the device come about?

Jeremiah Robison: The initial inspiration for CIONIC came after my daughter was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at a very young age. By observing her movement journey challenges, I witnessed firsthand the lack of effective solutions available to people with mobility challenges. I knew that the same technological advances that had propelled other industries forward (self-driving cars, reusable rockets, etc.) could also be used to understand human mobility and augment movement in real-time, providing personalized therapeutics tailored to individual mobility patterns. The team evaluated many different form factors and spoke with potential users to guide the product development. For the CIONIC team it was critical that the device was not only effective, but attractive and easy to use.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the Neural Sleeve, and how it is used.

Jeremiah Robison: Constructed with soft, flexible fabric, the sleeve’s design makes it easy for individuals to wear on their leg, looking more like a performance legging than a therapeutic aid. Inside it, we have packed our breakthrough read-write neural interface that can not only read the signals sent from the brain to the muscles but also activate the muscles directly using functional electrical stimulation (FES). Powered by advanced algorithms, the Neural Sleeve can properly sequence complex muscle firings to help people with motor impairments walk naturally and safely. It is available in a variety of colors to match an individual’s personal style.

Medgadget: What types of mobility issues is the Neural Sleeve intended for?

Jeremiah Robison: The Neural Sleeve garment is designed to assist people with mobility challenges, including individuals with Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, Cerebral Palsy, and spinal cord injury. The Neural Sleeve can assist with walking in real-time, as well as with exercises to improve muscle strength and circulation.

Medgadget: How does the technology work?

Jeremiah Robison: With neurological injury and disease, the musculoskeletal system is intact, but there is difficulty sequencing the complex muscle firings needed for walking. The Neural Sleeve helps fill in those gaps by activating the individual’s muscles with functional electrical stimulation. First, the garment uses sensors to measure the body’s movement. Next, algorithms analyze the data in real-time to determine the needed pattern of stimulation. Then, our novel stimulation array steers current to the appropriate muscle groups to achieve a more stable, normative gait pattern. This updates every single step.

Medgadget: What can a user expect when using the sleeve in terms of enhancing mobility?

Jeremiah Robison: We are currently conducting home usability trials, so we have been able to see how using the Neural Sleeve can impact an individual’s mobility over time. The results have been extremely encouraging. Many people describe their movement as more flowing and natural after using the Neural Sleeve. Some have spoken of a lightness and ease when walking – that they no longer have to think about every step and are no longer always afraid of falling. In terms of outlook, our users frequently share the optimism they feel from the progress they have made as they start to feel stronger, more stable, more confident, and more independent. One recent quote sums it up: “My energy level and confidence has increased exponentially!”

Link: Cionic homepage…

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