Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Robotic implant encourages cell growth in oesophagus tissue

One of CATCH’s core academic staff has been involved in ground-breaking research to create a revolutionary prototype robotic implant that will help tissue growth in babies.

Dr Dana Damian, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, and her team of researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, have created a small robot that can be implanted into the body to aid with the treatment of oesophageal atresia in children.

The robot is attached to the oesophagus by two rings. An incorporated motor then stimulates the cells by gently pulling the tissue. Using two types of sensors - one to measure the tension in the tissue and another to measure tissue displacement - the robot monitors and applies tissue traction depending on the tissue properties.

The robot’s function is inspired by the Foker technique of correcting the oesophageal atresia which involves the tissue being manually pulled slowly using sutures over a period of time.

Dr Dana Damian said: “Doctors have been performing this surgical procedure as they realised that tissue lengthening can be achieved by pulling on the tissue. However, it is unknown how much force should be applied to produce tissue lengthening. Although the technique is one of the best standards, sometimes the sutures surgeons attach to the oesophagus can tear which can result in repetitive surgeries or scar tissue can form that can cause problems for the patient in the future.

“The robot we developed addresses this issue because it measures the force being applied and can be adapted at anytime throughout the treatment. With it being implanted in the patient, it means they have - in effect - a doctor by their side all the time, monitoring them and changing their treatment when needed.”

Oesophageal atresia is a rare genetic disease which affects about 1 in 4000 babies born in the US and Europe. It occurs when the upper and lower parts of the oesophagus don’t connect, which means food can't reach the stomach. Some of these cases are characterized by a gap between 3and 10 cm between the esophageal stubs, called Long gap oesophageal atresia. The treatment of these cases using Foker technique can start as early as 3 months old and can take months.

Usually, the patient is sedated during the treatment to ensure the sutures in place do not tear.
The study suggests that with this robot, when used on patients, babies would be free to move around and be allowed to interact with their parents while undergoing treatment, taking away some of the stress from both parties.

The implant is powered by a control unit which remains outside of the body, attached to a vest. This means that doctors can monitor the patient without impacting on the baby’s routine.

Dr Damian said: “The biggest challenge we faced was to design a robot that works in a technology-hostile environment, and to develop a robust physiologically-relevant interaction with the tissue that promotes its growth when there are so many unknowns about the underlying mechanisms. The robot we designed had to be soft and durable, air and water impermeable, abrasion resistant, non-corrosive and be able to be implanted for long term treatment.

“This is the first step in adaptive regenerative-based treatments of tissues. We have made a device that can provide long-term control of the tissue growth using on-board medical expertise. We further want to look at other tubular tissues, such as the intestine and the vascular system, to see if this sort of technology can be used to help with other conditions, such as Short Bowel Syndrome.”

Tissue growth has been an issue in the Bioengineering field for many years, however this research is a stepping stone to understanding how mechanical stimulation at the tissue level helps the cells multiply and how doctors can stimulate cells to grow using intuitive tools.

The research has shown cells will multiply in response to being pulled rather than stretching out of shape or scarring. Using the robot’s monitoring and control abilities, the treatment can be changed to suit the patient and to optimize the cells’ growth.

Professor Sheila MacNeil, Professor of Tissue Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said: “Increasing knowledge of how tissues respond to mechanical strain with the production of new tissue has been needed for a long while. Doctors and researchers understand that tissues will normally grow in response to traction forces, for example this occurs naturally during pregnancy as the growing baby increases the pressure inside the mother, the abdominal wall and skin increase in area to relieve the tension generated from stretching these tissues. Plastic-surgeons have copied this trick by placing an inflatable balloon under the skin and inflating it over a period of weeks to expand skin and they then use this “extra skin” for reconstructive surgery for the patient.

"The development of this robotic implant is a breakthrough in applying the knowledge that tissues respond to strain with the production of new tissue in a practical and clinically useful manner.”

Additional Information
About the paper
In vivo tissue regeneration with robotic implants
Contributors: Dana D. Damian* (ACSE), Karl Price*, Slava Arabagi, Ignacio Berra, Zurab Machaidze, Sunil Manjila, Shogo Shimada, Assunta Fabozzo, Gustavo Arnal, David Van Story, Jeffrey D. Goldsmith, Agoston T. Agoston, Chunwoo Kim, Russell Jennings,
Peter D. Ngo, Michael Manfredi, Pierre E. Dupont.
* Contributed equally
Science Robotics
Vol. 3, Issue 14, eaaq001
DOI: http://robotics.sciencemag.org/content/3/14/eaaq0018

Intelligent shoe research project steps into the spotlight

An intelligent shoe that aims to help stroke survivors improve their walking and reduce the likelihood of falls has been chosen to feature in a new exhibition at a government office in London.

The innovative SMART-Stroke project is on display at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in Victoria Street. It sits alongside a video filmed by the project researchers.

The project, led by Researchers from CATCH and the National Institute for Health Research’s Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC) for Yorkshire and Humber, and hosted by Sheffield Teaching NHS Foundation Trust, uses a hi-tech set of WalkiNSense insoles, developed by local Sheffield Company Kinematix.

The sensors capture pressure while stroke survivors practise vital rehabilitation exercises –relaying feedback on how fast they are walking, distance travelled, steps taken and whether there is equal weight distribution in their step and balance.

The exhibition sits in a prime position in the ministerial department and is seen by up to 2000 people, including ministers and other government officials, everyday.

“We are delighted that our research into rehabilitation technologies has been chosen for display at BEIS as we believe our work will not only improve the lives of people surviving a stroke but also build a strong medical technology sector here in Yorkshire and Humber.”
Professor Sue Mawson. Director.


The SMART-Stroke project was chosen to be one of the first exhibits to reflect the key parts of the Industrial Strategy White Paper. This sets out Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future, ensuring that the UK takes advantage of major global changes, improving people’s lives and the country’s productivity.

The first four Grand Challenges are focused on the global trends which will transform our future:
• growing the Artificial Intelligence and data driven economy
• clean growth
• future of mobility
• ageing society

For more information on the SMART-Stroke project visit the CATCH research project pages and the NIHR CLAHRC website.
More information on the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges can be found here.

Monday, 30 October 2017

CATCH outcomes from the AAATE conference

CATCH Hosted the AAATE Congress earlier this year which saw almost 400 delegates from a range of academic disciplines, health and social care professionals, policy makers, and industry come together to discuss challenges from around the world where Assistive Technology could deliver benefits to the increasing population of people with disabilities and the ageing society.

The breadth of capacity that CATCH has to engage in Research and Development was well illustrated by the articles published in the Conference proceedings


There were 19 article from CATCH researchers spanning users who have communication, cognitive, static, degenerative, mental health, multiple, and profound impairments involving technologies and their use that spans EMG switches, touch screens, the internet, wearables, apps and robots.
The reported work examined methods, technology innovation and evaluation and service implementation.

There was some focus on addressing support for older people through the use of assistive technology for example for those with dementia or who would benefit from the use of robots to support independent living. 

The 19 articles from CATCH are
  • Comparing Recent Reviews About Touchscreens for Dementia with Lessons Learnt from the Field, Yvonne SCHIKHOF, Marleen GOUMANS, Phil JODDRELL and Arlene ASTELL, Pages 1 – 4
  • Reconnecting People with Dementia by Using the Interactive Instrument CRDL, Lisanne TEUNISSEN, Tom LUYTEN and Luc de WITTE, Pages 9 – 15
  • Independent Living Functions for the Elderly (IN-LIFE): Supporting Communication in Dementia, Sarah.K.SMITH and Arlene.J.ASTELL, Pages 16-22
  • Observing Remote Prescription of AT, Peter CUDD, Aejaz ZAHID and Marcus FRIDAY, Pages 94-97
  • Access Visits sing Video Communication, Suvodeep MAZUMDAR, Fabio CIRAVEGNA, Neil IRESON, Jennifer READ, Emma SIMPSON and Peter CUDD, Pages 102-110
  • Remote Health Care Provision in Care Homes, Louise NEWBOULD, Gail MOUNTAIN, Mark HAWLEY, and Steve ARISS, Pages 148-151
  • Smart Clothing for Falls Protection and Detection: User-Centred Co-Design and Feasibility Study, Katherine EASTON, Thomas BURTON, Steven ARISS, Mike BRADBURN and Mark HAWLEY, Pages 152-159
  • Cloud- based Speech Technology for Assistive Technology Applications (CloudCAST), Stuart CUNNINGHAM, Phil GREEN, Heidi CHRISTENSEN, José Joaquín ATRIA, Andre ́ COY, Massimiliano MALAVASI, Lorenzo DESIDERI, and Frank RUDZICZ, Pages 322-329
  • The Language and Communication Characteristics of Communication Aids – Systematic Review, Simon JUDGE, Nicola RANDALL, Yvonne LYNCH, Stuart MEREDITH, Liz MOULAM, Janice MURRAY, Juliet GOLDBART, Pages 347-350
  • The Hollybank Challenges: AT for People with Profound Disabilities, Pam KING, Kim LUDI, Deb MORTIMER and Stephen POTTER, Pages :351-354
  • Technology for Early Detection of Depression and Anxiety in Older People, Jacob A. ANDREWS, Arlene J. ASTELL, Laura J.E. BROWN, Robert F.HARRISON and Mark S. HAWLEY, Pages 374 – 380
  • A User-Centred Approach Exploring the Potential of a Novel EMG Switch for Control of Assistive Technology, Simon JUDGE, Nasrin NASR, Mark HAWLEY, Pages 381 – 384
  • Providing Sources of Self-Efficacy Through Technology Enhanced Post-Stroke Rehabilitation in the Home, Jack PARKER and Susan MAWSON, Pages 401 – 408
  • Robots for Elderly Care: Their Level of Social Interactions and the Targeted End User, Sandra BEDAF and Luc de WITTE, Pages 472 – 478
  • Introducing ZORA to Children with Severe Physical Disabilities, Renée van den HEUVEL, Monique LEXIS, and Luc de WITTE, Pages 510-516
  • Evaluation of Dynamic Arm Supports in Real Life Environments, L.A. van der Heidea, U. Roentgen, L. de Witte, Pages 517 – 522
  • IntelliTable: Inclusively-Designed Furniture with Robotic Capabilities, Tony J PRESCOTT, Sebastian CONRAN, Ben MITCHINSON, and Peter CUDD, Pages 565 – 572
  • Involving Users in the Evaluation of Apps for Specific Health Conditions, Lauren POWELL, Phil JODDRELL and Dr Jack PARKER, Pages 646 – 653
  • Assessing Gait Impairments Based on Auto- ncoded Patterns of Mahalanobis Distances from Consecutive Steps, Mario MUÑOZ-ORGANERO, Richard DAVIES and Sue MAWSON, Pages 733 – 740


Friday, 20 October 2017

Recent activity with ADHD Research in TaCT

Two papers have recently been published about the suitability of mobile applications (apps) for children and young people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Miss Lauren Powell and Dr Jack Parker from CATCH collaborated with University of Sheffield Psychology student, Miss Naomi Robertson and Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust’s Dr Val Harpin on this work. Click on the links below to find out more:

Study one explored the usability of the top 10 listed apps for children and young people with ADHD and clinicians who work with them

Study two explored the parents’ views of the suitability of the top ten listed apps for parents of children and young people with ADHD and the views of clinicians that work with them on the suitability and value of the apps

Study one was presented as a poster presentation at the Royal College of Psychiatrists International Congress 2017 by Miss Powell.

The methods behind the two above papers were also presented by Miss Powell at the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE) International Congress, 2017.

We have also held an event for children and young people with ADHD and their parents where we used Lego to answer questions around what technology they would like to help them manage their ADHD. To our knowledge, this is the first event of its kind using Lego Serious Play for this group. The workshop findings have been published in the NIHR INVOLE newsletter,

The workshop is also due to be presented by Dr Parker at the Design4Health conference in Melbourne in December, 2017.

This work was jointly funded by the Research Design Service Yorkshire and the Humber (RDS YH) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Telehealth and Care Technologies (TaCT) theme of the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Yorkshire Humber (CLAHRC YH)

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Pepper wows audience at Sensoria Festival

On Sunday 1st October, our humanoid robot Pepper took centre stage at the Sensoria Festival to introduce a sold-out screening of Fritz Lang’s iconic 1927 silent film Metropolis. The screening, which was accompanied by a live score by post-industrial electro-noise duo Factory Floor, took place in the awe-inspiring Face of Steel hall at Magna, a former steelworks on the outskirts of Sheffield.

Widely regarded as a pioneering work of cinematic science fiction, Metropolis depicts a dystopian future where a city’s downtrodden, exploited underclass of workers secretly plot a revolt, and features a robot which plays a crucial role in the events that transpire.

Based in and around Sheffield, Sensoria is the UK’s festival of music, film and digital media, and is renowned for its risk-taking and innovation. Now in its 10th year, Sensoria aims to provide access, raise aspiration and encourage new talent across the arts.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

CATCH forges international links with China

On the 27 September CATCH hosted a visit from the Vice-Governor of the Chinese region of Ningxia.  Vice-Governor Yao Aixin brought with him the President Sun Tao of Ningxia Medical University and Vice President Li Xiaoyan of Ningxia Polytechnic as well as two of his colleagues.  The visit was very kindly organised by Tim O’Connell from the Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO).

Vice-Governor Yao’s visit followed an earlier visit by a delegation from Ningxia in June to see if CATCH and the University of Sheffield would make a good partner for the region.  That visit was successful and a visit by the Vice-governor was arranged.

Ningxia is an autonomous region of China located in the centre of the country. The region is heavily investing in modern health and social care infrastructure and is exploring combining medical and elderly care services.

During the visit many opportunities for collaboration between CATCH and the two universities from Ningxia were discussed. These included student exchanges and areas of joint research. The Ningxia delegation invited Profs Mark Hawley and Luc de Witte to visit Ningxia to continue the discussions.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Early Career Researcher award for CATCH research associate

Congratulations to CATCH researcher Becky Field for winning the Early Career Researcher Award at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists 2017 Conference for her presentation on 'Identifying influences on take up of community occupational therapy by people with dementia and their family carer.'


“This was based on part of my PhD research, which is about take up of psychosocial interventions for people with early stage dementia. I am researching this because there is evidence supporting the benefits of such interventions, and health policy promotes living well with dementia, but what influences people with dementia take up psychosocial interventions is poorly understood.

I attended the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Celebration of Excellence 2017, in London to receive this award. Another Sheffield Occupational Therapist, Liz Dry (Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust) received an innovation award for her work in Sheffield promoting digital technology to support service users. Both Liz and I are members of the Sheffield Occupational Therapy Clinical Academics (SOTCA) network

It was a great day, as I got to meet some really inspirational, committed and innovative Occupational Therapists from around the UK, taking their fields of practice and research forward for the benefit of the people they work with. “
Becky Field
Research Associate

Find out more about occupational therapy

#ValueofOT @RCOT

For more information on the ‘Valuing Active Life in Dementia’ research programme please see https://www.ucl.ac.uk/valid

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Dr Sarah Kate Smith to speak at the Mental Health Digital Showcase

Dr Sarah Kate Smith from CATCH will be presenting on “Accessible technology for people living with dementia” at the upcoming Mental Health Digital Showcase, Organised by the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ACS Mental Health & Learning Disabilities Workstream.

The showcase, to be held on Friday 29th September at the Doncaster Keepmoat Stadium will explore the topic “How can digital technology help us to improve the way we support people with mental health problems?”

Find out more about the showcase here

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Harnessing the power of technology to improve lives: The AAATE Congress came to Sheffield this September.


CATCH welcomed hundreds of world leading scientists and health care professionals, who are helping to improve lives through revolutionary technology, to Sheffield this month for the AAATE Congress 12th - 15th September

The Congress combined the 14th AAATE Conference, and, satellite events that covered assistive technology practice and service implementation, and also included the T4I2017 Conference and a Student Tournament addressing real world challenges.

The Congress welcomed almost 400 delegates to Sheffield across the 4 days from a range of academic disciplines, health and social care professionals, policy makers, and industry who discussed challenges from around the world where Assistive Technology could deliver benefits to the increasing population of people with disabilities and the ageing society.

With a programme of well over 200 talks there was a wide array of technology and research on show and the event proved a fantastic opportunity to find out what is happening not just in Europe but also in the far East and North America as well.

Paul Timmers previously from the European Commission, now an independent consultant, gave his perspective on innovation over the last and next 10 years in the opening keynote presentation. Highlighting not just the challenges but the opportunities there are for collaborative and more integrated responses from the innovation communities.

Lord Chris Holmes presented a closing plenary talk. He is very active in the disability field and is the chair of the Global Disability Innovation Hub, spoke about the challenges faced by people with disabilities in today’s world. Lord Holmes explained just how transformational assistive technology has been to him personally and spoke generally about the potential of assistive technology to remove barriers, unlock opportunities and unleash talent and reminded us all why it is so important. Delegates resoundingly left inspired.

To find out more about the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe visit their website.

Friday, 1 September 2017

CATCH Members publish paper in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy

CATCH Members Laura Di Bona, Jennifer Wenborn, Becky Fields and Gail Mountain, along with colleagues have published a paper in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy entitled ‘Enablers and challenges to occupational therapists’ research engagement: A qualitative study’


To develop occupational therapy’s evidence base and improve its clinical outcomes, occupational therapists must increase their research involvement. Barriers to research consumption and leadership are well documented, but those relating to delivering research interventions, less so. Yet, interventions need to be researched within practice to demonstrate their clinical effectiveness. This study aims to improve understanding of challenges and enablers experienced by occupational therapists who deliver interventions within research programmes.

Twenty-eight occupational therapists who participated in the Valuing Active Life in Dementia (VALID) research programme reported their experiences in five focus groups. Data were analysed thematically to identify key and subthemes.

Our paper finds that Occupational therapists reported that overwhelming paperwork, use of videos, recruitment and introducing a new intervention challenged their research involvement, whereas support, protected time and a positive attitude enabled it. The impact of these challenges and enablers varied between therapists and organisations.

The study concludes that challenges and enablers to research involvement can be identified but must be addressed within individual and organisational contexts. Multifaceted collective action to minimise challenges and maximise enablers can facilitate clinicians’ involvement in research. Using this approach should enable occupational therapists to increase their research involvement, thus demonstrating the clinical effectiveness of their interventions.

The full paper can be accessed here