Researcher Secures Patent For Cycle That Treats Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
A Kent State University researcher recently received a patent for a new version of a therapeutic cycle she developed to help ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Since 2006, Dr. Angela Ridgel, Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services, has dedicated her research to the impact of tandem cycling on Parkinson’s patients.
In October, Ridgel and engineers working with her were awarded a patent for the next generation of the therapy cycle: the Speed Manipulated Adaptive Rehabilitation Therapy (SMART) Cycle.
An earlier version of the motorized bike, the Dynamic Cycle, replicates the cycling dynamics of tandem cycling, a therapy that has been shown to dramatically improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including neurological weakness, tremors and rigidity.
Working with engineers at Case Western Reserve University and Rockwell Automation in Cleveland, Ridgel designed a device that could perform the same function as a live trainer pedaling on the front of a tandem bike.
A 2012 grant from the National Institutes of Health provided funding for the design and testing of the Dynamic Cycle. Continued research showed ways the bike could be improved, so plans for the second version were developed and the patent was applied for in 2014.
Now that the patent is secured, Ridgel is looking for funding to pay for the design and manufacture of a prototype. The new version will offer more advanced programming features, and a trainer will be able to remotely control a bike in a patient’s home or physical therapy site. Perhaps most important, though, the cycle’s controls will be able to adapt to different patients’ abilities and needs.
Parkinson’s patients have varying abilities depending on their disease’s progression. By making the controller adaptive, Ridgel said, it will be able to predict what pedaling settings are best for which patients. The controller will be able to change the parameters midsession to continuously challenge the nervous system, and challenge the patient to keep up.
The larger question, however, is why this type of exercise helps Parkinson’s patients and why patients differ in their symptom improvement. Although many show marked improvement following this exercise, others had just slight improvements. Ridgel suspects the exercise is causing changes in the excitability of circuits in the brain.
In November 2017, Dr. Beth Fisher, Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California, began using the Dynamic Cycle as part of a long-term study, using transcranial magnetic stimulation to measure how the neurons in the brain interact when a patient uses the cycle.
“This will help us to know what is happening at the brain level,” Ridgel explained. She hopes the data from the study will be conclusive enough to help secure additional NIH funding to pay for the SMART Cycle’s testing.