(01/14/14) - Something that pops out of a 3D printer can help kids with severe
neuromuscular diseases, like muscular dystrophy, move like they never dreamed
possible. Yes, I said "printer"!
During her fifth month of pregnancy, Jennifer Mohn was told to prepare for the worst for her unborn daughter, "they told us to make arrangements for her."
Baby Hannah Faith beat the odds and survived, but was born with a list of health conditions. One of the more serious ones is arthrogryposis, a disease that affects muscle strength.
"She was just really unable to move," Jennifer says.
Four years later, she's making great strides, thanks in part to 3D-printed arms, known as the Wilmington Robotic exo-skeleton, or WREX. Each WREX is constructed of lightweight plastic and rubber bands. They can also be custom made overnight, with the use of a 3D printer.
"And if you do the geometry right and you put the bands in the correct place, you can get this floating sensation for a kid," says Tariq Rahman, PhD, of DuPont Hospital for Children.
The invention is allowing kids like Hannah the ability to move their arms, says Jennifer, "to see her have the ability to reach her arms out, to reach out and grab something is just a really amazing feeling for a mom."
Since a 3D printer is used, the customized exo-skeletons can easily be made to grow with the child. The WREX can also be used by children with other neuromuscular diseases, or by adults with stroke and spinal cord injury.
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