Milos Popovic, Research Director at UHN's KITE Research Institute and the co-founder of MyndTec, says partnerships between commercial ventures and research institutions like KITE help spur medical innovation. (Photo: The KITE Research Institute)

In April of 2020, Sobhan Chowdhury felt a strange tingling sensation in his arm and leg and worried that something was wrong with his body. He had a family history of stroke, and even though he was only 53 years old and an active husband and father, Sobhan knew that he was at a significant risk of experiencing a devastating or even fatal medical event.

He went to a hospital near his home in the small community of Deep River, Ont. Although, his symptoms initially seemed mild and intermittent, he eventually collapsed in the hospital washroom, and was subsequently diagnosed as having suffered a stroke. It wasn't long before he couldn't move the right side of his body, leaving him without the ability to walk, work and perform most other basic daily tasks.

Because of his remote location and pandemic-related restrictions, Sobhan had little opportunity to undergo rehab for several months. In January of 2021, though, he relocated to Toronto and started his rehab at Toronto Rehab's Upper Extremity Clinic.

For seven months, he received rehab to help improve his arm and hand function. This included spending up to five hours a week with his right hand and arm attached to a series of electrode pads.

The electrical stimulation device that was used is called MyndMove, a revolutionary technology that employs electrical stimulation to treat motor disabilities caused by stroke and spinal cord injuries. While it was only one piece of Sobhan's extensive rehab regime, it has been an integral part of his journey to recovery.

"I was very affected by my stroke," he says. "There has definitely been a lot of improvement through MyndMove."

Electricity for independence

MyndMove is a commercial product delivered through clinics and hospitals in Canada and the U.S. through a startup called MyndTec. It is used to help retrain arm and hand function following conditions like stroke.

While patients like Sobhan don't give much thought as to how the technology gets from the lab to the electrodes on their hands, the story of MyndTec involves a lot of innovative and out-of-the-box thinking from researchers at UHN's KITE Research Institute.

Its technology was developed over the course of more than two decades by a lab led by Dr. Milos R. Popovic, KITE's Research Director, who has long been interested in the field of electrical stimulation and its application to treat motor disabilities.

While the idea of stimulating a patient's extremities with electricity isn't new, he and his colleagues developed a device that works on multiple muscle groups in the hands and arms to help patients accomplish specific tasks like reaching or grasping.

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