July 14, 2009

New device measures hand muscle strength

Rice University students have invented an award-winning device that measures intrinsic hand muscle strength for diagnosing and treating hand injuries.

The team of bioengineering students said their device might revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of hand injuries and neurological disorders, specifically carpal tunnel syndrome.

The device won first place and a $10,000 prize at an innovation competition for graduate and undergraduate students last month.

Caterina Kaffes, Matthew Miller, Neel Shah and Shuai Xu invented PRIME, or Peg Restrained Intrinsic Muscle Evaluator, for their senior project. The challenge was to create a device that accurately measures intrinsic hand muscles, which allow humans to play a piano or perform any task that requires dexterity and precision.

Twenty percent of all ER admissions are hand-related, Xu said. Neuromuscular disorders like spinal cord injuries, Lou Gehrig's, diabetes, multiple sclerosis -- all these diseases affect the intrinsic hand muscles.

Xu said the team hopes PRIME will help hospitals and rehabilitation clinics compare the effectiveness of surgical interventions and diagnose neuromuscular degenerative diseases.

There's so much applicability, it's hard to pinpoint our market size, he said.