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Small Biz Award Funds Home Elder Muscle Device

Older couple

(Mabel Amber, Pixabay)

21 Apr. 2021. A start-up company spun-off from Dartmouth College received a grant to develop a device for older people to measure their muscle mass exercises at home. SynchroHealth LLC is receiving $224,700 award from National Institute on Aging, part of National Institutes of Health, to build and test the feasibility of its BandPass system that allows physical therapists to remotely monitor their clients’ home exercise progress.

SynchroHealth, a one year-old company in Lyme, New Hampshire, created the BandPass to help older adults better deal with sarcopenia, the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength. Sarcopenia can be treated with regular resistance exercises that help older individuals maintain their muscle mass. These exercises are taught and led by physical therapists in rehabilitation clinics, but must be continued at home by their clients to continue progress. The company points out, however, that compliance is low among many clients, and self-reporting exercise diaries are often inaccurate and can reflect recall bias.

The company, founded by Dartmouth engineering professor Ryan Halter, with Dartmouth students and colleagues at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, designed the BandPass to allow physical therapists to better monitor and manage their clients’ progress against sarcopenia. “There’s a huge disparity in what clinicians and physical therapists think goes on in at-home rehabilitation programs and what actually happens,” says Halter in a Dartmouth statement. “This disconnect often results in changes to the provider’s future treatment plans and could ultimately lead to unnecessary interventions that increase costs and potential risks to the patient.”

Funds development of initial prototype

BandPass is an elastic resistance band, similar to other exercise devices on the market, but also fitted with electronic sensors to measure amounts of force needed to perform prescribed exercises. In addition, BandPass has a Bluetooth transmitter to send data from the sensors to a nearby mobile app. The app will be able to send its data to the cloud for retrieval by the physical therapist, to track clients’ progress over time and for future analytics. The more frequent exercise data will make it possible for therapists to personalize training for clients and make adjustments faster.

The National Institute on Aging award calls for SynchroHealth to develop an initial BandPass prototype for lab testing to determine the device’s accuracy, precision, and long-term stability. Testing will also include data transfers with the mobile app and a cloud-based storage and analytics platform. In addition, SynchroHealth is expected to conduct a pilot test with human subjects for usability and stability in a home setting.

The award is a Small Business Technology Transfer or STTR grant made under NIH’s small business programs that set aside a part of the agency’s research funding for U.S.-based and owned companies. STTR grants support collaborative industry-academic research projects, and in most cases are made in two parts: a first phase to determine technical and commercial feasibility, and a second phase to develop and test a working prototype or prepare for clinical trials. This grant is a phase 1 award that runs through the end of 2021.

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