Here’s a question: Is it possible to close both of your eyes by blinking just one? In theory, the answer is no: As soon as you close both of eyes, that’s a blink, and when you close just one, that’s a wink.
But patients who deal with facial nerve paralysis don’t have the luxury of making such a distinction. Individuals with facial nerve paralysis are left without the necessary motor functions to close an eye on either side of their face, rendering those impaired with the condition unable to blink both eyes simultaneously. The paralysis of these facial muscles means impaired individuals can develop corneal atrophy and an eventual loss of vision.
Losing the ability to blink an eye is an uncomfortable and potentially devastating symptom on top of an already difficult medical condition. In order to remedy these symptoms, otolaryngologists are tasked with the challenge of developing a solution that can restore eye blinking functionality to the paralyzed side of the face. Although otolaryngologists certainly have the skills and knowledge to carry out such a task, until recently, a technological solution hasn’t existed for surgeons to offer such patients.
That’s because existing methods of surgical intervention only resulted in the restoration of facial nerve functionality in less than 60 percent of patients. The low success rate of previous procedures has led surgeons and patients with facial nerve paralysis to seek out a more successful, reliable and innovative surgical procedure.
Fortunately, in today’s world of miniaturized technology, it became possible to imagine a procedure that could solve this problem by using a combination of small medical devices and cutting-edge software. After all, the explosion of Internet-of-things (IoT) devices has transformed nearly every industry from logistics to retail, and medical devices have been no exception.Borys Pratsiuk, Head of R&D Engineering at Ciklum
By combining knowledge of otologic surgical procedures, intelligent wireless sensors and software development, a theoretical solution appeared within the distance.
This solution began to emerge when the Institute of Otolaryngology of Ukraine approached Ciklum’s Research and Development Engineering Unit to assist in building a prototype. Because of Ciklum’s expertise in developing IoT solutions across a wide range of industries, the Institute of Otolaryngology of Ukraine believed Ciklum would make the perfect partner in turning its research and technical skills into a functional medical IoT product. Working in tandem with the Research and Manufacturing Private Enterprise WEL to develop the circuit design and build a functional prototype, Ciklum was tasked with creating algorithms and software to analyze data related to blink detection.
The emerging idea was an implantable piece of technology to make both eyes blink simultaneously. Through the detection of eye blinking on the healthy side of the face, the implant could trigger eyelid closure of the denervated eyelid in real time. When one eye blinks, so does the other.
Ciklum’s work began as its research and development engineers determined the best implementation of the technology would come through implantable electromyographic electrodes.
Relying on a vast amount of institutional knowledge and experience in developing medical IoT solutions and biomedical signals analysis, our R&D team developed a custom digital signal processing methodology to reliably detect eye blinking. As soon as a blink was detected through a custom algorithm, the device would trigger an electrical stimulator to close the eyelid of the impaired eye.Anton Popov, AI/ Deep Learning Technical lead at Ciklum
The final solution developed by Ciklum and its partners resulted in an implantable system to restore blinking for patients with unilateral facial paralysis. Compared with other surgical procedures, this method is preferable for patients because of the ability to restore facial muscle functionality below the acceptable pain threshold.
Thanks to the data and clinical testing obtained during the development of the implant device and related software, Ciklum’s work has helped make steps towards the development of a functional prototype. Through prototypes like these, surgeons and medical device manufacturers can gain greater insights into possible solutions for use among the general public. While the research and development of medical devices can be a time-consuming process, functioning prototypes can go a long way toward the creation of a solution for patients to make their lives easier and more comfortable.
I very much appreciate the valuable contribution of Ciklum`s R&D Engineering team into the project and the evolvement of innovative medicine overall. They have shown not only excellent research and technical skills but also a structured approach towards our intensive partnership. Ciklum`s team has successfully managed to implement the idea into a fully functional IoT medical productDr. Andrii Bobrov, MD, Institute of Otolaryngology of Ukraine
The efforts have not gone unnoticed by the Politzer Society: an international organization focused on otologic surgery and science originally founded in the 1970s. At the 30th Politzer Society Meeting, an annual event to share research and acknowledge significant accomplishments in the field, members of Ciklum’s research and development team working to restore blinking to patients dealing with paralysis were awarded both the Politzer Prize and the Gold Medal for Basic Science Research in Otology.
Andrii Bobrov from the Ukrainian Institute of Otolaryngology Receiving The Politzer Prize and Gold Medal for “Implantable Bioelectrical System for Restoration of Blinking”
For Ciklum, it’s a significant honor for its technology and skilled developers to contribute to solutions that may one day improve the lives of patients around the world. The achievements of The Institute of Otolaryngology of Ukraine, the Research and Manufacturing Private Enterprise WEL, and Ciklum’s research and development team highlight the transformative potential of medical IoT technology. By harnessing knowledge and technology across a wide field of disciplines, the collaboration of the blinking restoration project highlights the possibility for medical breakthroughs that were simply not available even just a decade ago.
As IoT technology continues to shrink and become more connected than ever before, solutions like these aren’t simply cool tech demos: they’re applications with the real-world potential to help people lead happier, healthier lives. Considering IoT devices remain in their relative infancy and the surface has only been scratched on their future applications, Ciklum looks forward to helping tomorrow’s companies develop medical solutions of the future.