—by Holly EvartsThe cost of care for SCI patients is enormous—annually over $3 billion. Studies have shown, however, that activity-based interventions offer a promising approach, and Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering and of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine, is at the forefront of research efforts to improve recovery through the development of novel robotic devices and interfaces that help patients retrain their movements.
One of Agrawal’s current projects, “Tethered Pelvic Assist Device (TPAD) and Epidural Stimulation for Recovery of Standing in Spinal Cord Injured Patients,” recently won a five-year $5 million grant from the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Board. The project is a collaboration with co-PI Susan Harkema and Claudia Angeli in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Louisville, KY, and Joel Stein, Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine, and Ferne Pomerantz, MD, assistant professor of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine in the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine, both at Columbia University Medical Center. Agrawal’s focus is on improving the effectiveness of stand/balance training during SCI rehabilitation by using a unique robotic system—Tethered Pelvic Assist Device (TPAD)—invented in his Robotics and Rehabilitation (ROAR) Laboratory.