Cionic, a company committed to improving the lives of people with mobility differences by helping them move more independently through bionic clothing, has conducted trials in the San Francisco Bay Area that resulted in an average improvement of 143% to foot drop across trial participants of Cionic’s Neural Sleeve™ gait study.
Foot drop is a mobility challenge, which is defined by Mayo Clinic as “a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot,” and “is a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problem.” Cionic’s bionic clothing is designed to help restore mobility and improve the manner of walking (gait) for people with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and other neurological disorders.
“It’s been incredible to see participants not just walk more confidently but also show quantitative improvements in their gait,” said Jeremiah Robison, Founder and CEO of Cionic. “Our participants are seeing 1.5x gain in dorsiflexion at heel strike, which means they’re clearing their foot through swing better, have a better chance to avoid falls, and have a more natural gait cycle. This is a tremendous step in building a scalable neuromodulation platform to help people with movement disorders leverage their own bodies and rebuild neural pathways for greater independence.”
Cionic’s work in this field is increasingly necessary as the number of people affected by mobility challenges and associated healthcare costs continue to rise. According to the CDC, “disability-associated healthcare expenditures accounted for 36% of all healthcare expenditures for adults residing in the United States, totaling $868 billion,” as of 2015, with 13.7% of American adults with functional disability types suffering from mobility issues. Standard of care for mobility impairment includes walkers, wheelchairs, canes, and crutches. Nearly 7 million Americans use a walker or wheelchair. By 2050, 20% of the developed world’s population will suffer from a physical impairment.
“This month, we completed both our human factors and efficacy testing and we are now ready to submit our Neural Sleeve to the FDA,” continued Robison. “This is a huge milestone for the company. So much invention and hard work has gone into this first product, and we cannot wait to bring it to the many people living with a gait impairment.”
Trial participant, Patricia Allen, survived a stroke in 2019 that drastically affected her mobility, especially the ability to negotiate stairs. She has used a quad-cane and an ankle-foot orthotic with less than satisfactory results. During one of her trial sessions, Cionic recorded Patricia’s data while she walked outside in San Francisco.
“They’re just a great group of people. What Cionic is doing is a garment-type design so it’s not so obtrusive when you’re wearing it,” said Allen. “My last visit I actually went out on the streets in North Beach in San Francisco, heavy population, all the flavors of San Francisco, and it was a feeling of inspiration for me that I haven’t felt for two and a half years. It was an impactful moment for me, and I am encouraged by what they’re doing, what the product is, and how it’s developing.”
HOW IT WORKS
The Cionic Neural Sleeve analyzes, predicts, and augments a person’s movement. Using advanced algorithms, the system reads the signal sent from the brain to the muscles and can predict a person’s movement 1/10th of a second before their foot lifts off the ground. The lower-leg Neural Sleeve uses a dense array of sensors to measure how the body is positioned and how individual muscles fire during movement, predicts intended movement by measuring the electrical signal from the brain, and then algorithms analyze this data in real time to determine optimal muscle activation patterns. Cionic delivers Functional Electrical Stimulation to sequence proper muscle firing for natural movement. It is an adaptive system that provides real-time augmentation and adjustment of the participant’s movement, providing necessary assistance based on what can be measured of the participant’s neurological feedback that adjusts stimulation based on measured gait kinematics to optimize performance.
HOW IT LOOKS
The company’s discreet bionic clothing is thoughtfully designed and engineered to assist people with mobility challenges. The company is the first to have developed wearable technology to enable anyone living with a mobility difference to move with more freedom and confidence. For many living with neurological mobility impairments, helping them to move more independently is their greatest wish.