The neurological aftermath of stroke can make even the most basic tasks feel insurmountable. In addition to the functional loss, stroke victims often feel as if they’ve been robbed of their self-reliance and dignity. Imagine how you would feel if you could not put on a pair of pants.
Care for those who have lost the ability to function independently is costly. With an estimated 76 million Baby Boomers in the United States in 2011 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), the cumulative cost of care for stroke patients represents an increasing societal burden.
Ascension Ventures, a subsidiary of Ascension, is helping to fund medical breakthroughs that allow stroke victims to regain function and preserve their independence. By supporting a company called NeuroLutions, Ascension Ventures is aiding in the development of a promising rehabilitation, the IpsiHand – a robotic glove that a stroke patient wears in combination with a headset that records the brain’s signals and sends those messages to the glove to help the patient move his or her hand. (For more on the IpsiHand, watch this video.)
“IpsiHand is a really unique combination of brain-computer interfaces and rehabilitation. By allowing the uninjured part of a person’s brain to control an orthotic, which controls their paralyzed hand, it allows that brain to rewire and retrain itself to recover function that’s been lost chronically after a stroke injury,” said Eric Leuthardt, MD, founder and inventor of the NeuroLutions platform.
“This technology really would not be in existence if it were not for Ascension Ventures,” Dr. Leuthardt added. “Their leadership and their vision really made a key difference in the early stage of this technology and this science.”
Stroke patients such as Rick Arnold say the science is working. “It gets a little bit better every day,” Arnold said as he demonstrated touching his finger to his nose. He said he’s able to do simple tasks now, like buttoning his shirt or opening the refrigerator, routine movements he had been unable to perform for more than three years.
“From the beginning, the benefits have been tremendous,” said Kim Arnold, Rick’s wife. “When he started, his hand was in a fist; he couldn’t do anything. But seeing him come back, being able to hold my hand and seeing the joy in his face – I’m getting my husband back.”
“Watching NeuroLutions progress from an idea to a tangible therapeutic device is a very rewarding aspect of what we do at Ascension Ventures,” said Tara Butler, MD, Senior Director of Ascension Ventures and Interim CEO of NeuroLutions. “This is an example of how Ascension Ventures can add value to even very early stage medical device companies.”
“These are the kinds of breakthroughs that Ascension Ventures endeavors to make possible,” said Matt Hermann, Senior Managing Director of Ascension Ventures, a subsidiary of Ascension that serves as a strategic healthcare fund manager focused on the medical device, technology and healthcare service sectors. “Our role is to construct and manage a strategic portfolio of investments that deliver a venture investment return, have the potential to transform the healthcare industry, and significantly enhance patient, family and caregiver experiences. We have firsthand experience how amazing scientists like Dr. Leuthardt, combined with dedicated patients like Rick and financing from Ascension Ventures, can change people’s lives.”