Magnetic Pen Set Stabilizes Writing for Parkinson’s Patients



Might 12, 2023 — Pupil entrepreneurs at Northwestern College exterior Chicago invented a pen set that permits Parkinson’s illness sufferers to jot down once more regardless of the tremors of the illness.

SteadyScrib, a pen designed with these signs in thoughts, seeks to counteract the unsteady tremors of Parkinson’s with pens which have a magnetic core and a pliable grip. The specialised pen is meant to assist with three signs of Parkinson’s: tremors, slowness of motion, and rigidity. 

A skinny, steel-coated board and 4 magnets lock the paper into place. The pen, full of a weighted core and held with a pliable grip, steadies the shaky motion that always impairs a Parkinson’s affected person’s means to jot down. The magnetic drive of the pen to the clipboard stabilizes the tip of the pen, and the consumer can then write legibly with ease. 

Isabelle Mokotoff, a junior majoring in journalism at Northwestern and co-founder of SteadyScrib, mentioned their aim was to create a pen with intuitive design for Parkinson’s sufferers. 

“I feel our core values are that we needed it to be specialised, that means there’s at present no writing answer available on the market that is particularly designed for folks with Parkinson’s,” Mokotoff mentioned. “We needed to specifically cater to that market as a result of there’s such an enormous high quality of life hole.” 

Mokotoff got here up with the concept when her grandfather, a lifelong author, misplaced his means to jot down attributable to Parkinson’s. Mokotoff shared her frustration together with her sorority sister and Northwestern College junior Alexis Chan, a biomedical engineering main who collaborated to convey Mokotoff’s imaginative and prescient to life. 

Mokotoff and Chan did greater than 100 interviews with Parkinson’s sufferers, their relations, and occupational therapists to validate the necessity of a writing instrument for Parkinson’s sufferers. 

They examined a number of supplies earlier than deciding on neodymium magnets as the important thing in making a pen that steadies the tremor of individuals with the illness. Utilizing the 3D printer on the Storage, Northwestern’s innovation lab, the scholars created the primary prototypes final summer time. They then got down to take a look at the pen units in an area Parkinson’s help group, Evanston Movers and Shakers. 

The SteadyScrib pen set, created via 3D printers on the Storage, an interdisciplinary entrepreneurship house for Northwestern College college students. 

Cissy Lacks, a member of Movers and Shakers, tried out the SteadyScrib pen set and mentioned it functioned higher than different pens she had tried earlier than. Lacks has had Parkinson’s for 3 years with delicate signs. As a theater evaluation contributor for the native newspaper, the Evanston Spherical Desk, Lacks hopes to make use of the invention for taking notes throughout interviews.

 She mentioned that the pen set additionally addresses wants equivalent to writing playing cards for family and friends, filling out kinds and questionnaires for the physician’s workplace, or writing checks. 

“As an alternative of my hand stopping or getting drained, it simply moved actually simply,” Lacks mentioned. “So my hand didn’t put loads of effort into making [the pen] work. And the scale of the letters keep the identical, which is absolutely essential.”

Lacks mentioned that in dwelling with Parkinson’s illness, intention is essential to carry out an motion. Nonetheless, this solely quickly applies to writing, because the letters are inclined to get smaller attributable to dysgraphia, a neurological situation that impairs handwriting in numerous methods. She mentioned SteadyScrib appeared to unravel this drawback.

“I can actually take into consideration the writing and it appears OK, however two strains later it’d get quite a bit smaller. However that wasn’t the case with this technique. It just about stayed the identical,” she mentioned. 

The SteadyScrib pen set features a pen with a neodymium magnet core and a metallic steel sheet beneath the paper. 

Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer on the American Parkinson Illness Affiliation, mentioned she has seen utensils and pens for Parkinson’s sufferers however no machine that makes use of magnets to stabilize the tremors. 

Gilbert mentioned Parkinson’s illness impacts the motor planning ability of the sufferers, principally when the affected person is at relaxation. Dystonia, or involuntary muscle contractions, and dyskinesia, or muscle spasms, are some signs that may disrupt the writing course of. 

Based on Mokotoff, greater than 1,000 folks have added their names to a ready record for a SteadyScrib set. The demand is greater than the manufacturing capability on the innovation house on campus, so SteadyScrib is now searching for a associate to assist scale manufacturing to satisfy client wants. SteadyScrib acquired 5 grants totaling $43,680, and Mokotoff mentioned SteadyScrib is working with a number of potential companions with an curiosity in manufacturing the product. 

Chan mentioned SteadyScrib plans so as to add a further characteristic to retract the pen nib to forestall the ink from drying. SteadyScrib additionally works to tailor the pen to the Parkinson’s signs of its customers. 

As an illustration, sufferers fall right into a spectrum of Parkinson’s signs ensuing from tremors of different neurological challenges. Mokotoff mentioned her group is working to regulate the pen in response to these findings for a extra inclusive and responsive product. 

“We designed our pen [based] on the most typical rated inhibitive signs,” Mokotoff mentioned. “However you already know, the priority isn’t one dimension suits all.” 

Parkinson’s illness is a neurological dysfunction that leads to shakiness in actions or problem in strolling and speaking in extreme circumstances. Because the signs progress, fine-motor expertise equivalent to writing turn out to be more and more troublesome to perform. Based on the Nationwide Institute of Neurological Problems and Stroke, Parkinson’s is the second commonest neurodegenerative after Alzheimer’s in the US. 

SteadyScrib is patented, and the co-founders ship month-to-month updates about improvement via a publication.