Zain Samdani visited his distant maternal uncle for the first time during a family holiday in 2015. When the then-teenager saw him partially paralysed after a stroke, he was taken aback; he could barely respond and couldn’t even lift a spoon.
“Imagine what it would be like to have another person help you out for every little activity in your life?”, says Samdani.
Samdani discovered when researching paralysis that rehabilitation is time-consuming and mentally taxing, with robotic therapy treatments costing between $8,000 and $12,000 per session. “When I went to a number of these [rehab] centres, I discovered that the patients had to commute there, which was exceedingly inconvenient. Furthermore, despite the fact that the sessions were costly, I didn’t see much current technology being used,” adds the now-21-year-old.
As a result of his observations, he created Neuro-ExoHeal, a wearable gadget that aids patients with hand paralysis. Samdani had to extensively research on it—secondary, as well as primary research, including meeting a lot of neuroscientists and physiotherapists—before coming up with something unique.
Samdani explains how Neuro-ExoHeal’s technology works: “When a movement is performed by the functional hand, the exoskeleton forces the paralysed hand to mirror the same motion. This mirroring allows the mirror neuron to trick the brain into believing that the paralysed hand is alright, forming new neural connections and reviving the paralysed hand.”
Neuro-ExoHeal has been tested on 30 to 50 patients, and has seen positive results. “When my uncle, for instance, used the device, he was able to feel sensations in his paralysed hand for the first time. I witnessed him holding a spoon… this would normally take weeks or months if you go by the traditional route,” explains Samdani. Similarly, another bedridden patient was able to sit upright without the assistance of another person.
Over the last four years, the technology has been tested under the guidance and supervision of physiotherapists and doctors from Saudi Arabia and India. “Based on our first findings, it [Neuro-ExoHeal] can help sick people recover 30 percent faster than typical therapies at a fraction of the expense,” he says.
Samdani aims to make the device extremely affordable, while the revenue strategy has yet to be determined. “The most affordable device currently available costs roughly Rs. 7-10 lakh. “However, we’re aiming for a cost of less than Rs. 50,000,” he explains.