Izar device trains hand function in neurological disease

MindMaze's device improves patients' ability to grasp objects, pinch and grip

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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A new device called Izar that aims to help assess and train hand function for people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease is now available in the U.S., as well as in European countries including France, Switzerland, and Germany.

According to its manufacturer, MindMaze, the hand-sized device is enabled with self-training programs that aim to improve patients’ ability to accurately grasp objects, as well as pinch and grip. These programs can be done in the clinic or at home, which can help increase training dose and quality.

“It is very exciting to have a device for the hand that has the versatility of Izar. It can serve as a controller during reach-to-grasp movements, as a trainer of grip force gradation, and as an assessor of dexterity,” John Krakauer, MD, PhD, chief medical director of MindMaze, said in a press release.

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“The device is also highly portable, so it can be used across the continuum of care, which is important as the upper limb, and the hand in particular, gets relatively neglected in neurorehabilitation,” Krakauer added.

Hand function is vitally important for many day-to-day tasks, from typing to eating to getting dressed. In Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders, motor symptoms that affect the hands, such as tremor or bradykinesia (unusually slow movement), can make it harder to do these tasks independently.

The Izar assistive device for the hands is designed to both train and assess hand and finger movements using a hyper-sensitive controller that can detect even very subtle movements from patients who have minimal hand function.

The device is capable of detecting tiny forces of less than one Newton in strength — about the same force exerted by an average-size apple on a person’s hand due to gravity pulling it toward the Earth.

Before launch, Izar was comprehensively tested in 250 people with neurological diseases at nine sites, providing more than 250 hours of active supervised and self-training, according to MindMaze.

“Our clients were actually surprised to see that they still had hand-finger functions. Through the visual feedback of even the smallest functions, they were more motivated for the therapy,” said Julia Knape, a therapist from P.A.N. Zentrum Centre in Germany.

Device provided ‘a lot of hope’

“With Izar I felt my hand again for the first time, I could even actively move it a bit and I saw that on the screen. It gave me a lot of hope,” said Berit H, a patient at the German center.

The Izar assistive device for the hands has been listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and received the CE mark in the European Union, meaning it has been deemed safe for medical use and can be sold legally.

In addition to currently available software focused on grasp, pinch, and grip training, Izar’s future software updates will target things such as bilateral function (using both hands at the same time), hand and upper arm combined movements, and assessments of hand and wrist dexterity.

The device is part of MindMaze’s efforts to improve patient care through combinations of smart devices and digital neurotherapeutic programs — for which it has initiated partnerships with Mount Sinai Health System and Vibra Healthcare.