Shriners Hospitals for Children and Georgia Tech Announce Research Affiliation

Published: Monday March 2, 2020

Shriners Hospitals for Children® and the Georgia Institute of Technology have launched an ambitious collaborative research effort

Aaron Young, Georgia Tech assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and graduate researcher Pooja Moolchandani inspect one of the pediatric knee exoskeletons developed in the EPIC Lab. (Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech)

You see and want the glass of milk on the table across the room. That’s no problem for most of us, who will simply walk to the table, grab the glass, and enjoy the milk. Triggering all of that limb movement is a complex set of coordinated neuromuscular commands and actions, which are not so simple for that segment of the population with, say, cerebral palsy or spinal cord injury.

To help young people struggling with those conditions – or orthopedic problems like clubfoot, scoliosis, and osteogenesis imperfecta, among other things – Shriners Hospitals for Children® and the Georgia Institute of Technology have launched an ambitious collaborative research effort to address these conditions, including the development of devices to facilitate limb movement and function.

The new research affiliation brings together the clinical, surgical, and scientific expertise of Shriners Hospitals for Children physicians and researchers with Georgia Tech’s cutting-edge expertise in biomedical engineering, robotics, and device development. The coordinated effort also will leverage the two organizations’ proficiency 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.

“Our joint goals, through genetic and genomic data gathered by Shriners Hospitals for Children, are to improve patient therapeutic responses by optimizing individualized treatment regimens and reducing adverse events,” Lalande said.

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 children 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, so to speak, depending on the task. The idea is to enhance the child’s ability to perform the activities of daily living.”

Kozin expects his patients with spinal cord injuries will benefit from Georgia Tech’s innovative pediatric prosthesis development – its utility, actuation, and dexterity. “Alternative pathways for the recovery of sensation will enhance their function and independence. We are excited about this new collaboration combining institutions with similar missions and visions devoted to improving the lives of children,” said Kozin, who also is collaborating with Georgia Tech’s Frank Hammond (assistant professor in BME and mechanical engineering) on wearable sensory transfer devices for patients with diminished peripheral sensation or amputations, improving their ability to use intuitively powered prostheses and orthoses.


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