More people than ever are at risk of suffering a stroke, with data from the World Health Organization showing that one in every four people will have a stroke in their lifetime, up 50% over the past 17 years. Stroke is now the leading cause of disability worldwide and the second leading cause of death. On the other hand, an estimated 2.8 million people are living with multiple sclerosis worldwide, with this autoimmune disease leading to various neuromuscular symptoms, including vision problems, limb weakness, slurred speech and loss of balance. Both conditions can severely affect patients’ quality of life and result in permanent debilitation of their mobility.
To aid in the recovery of stroke and MS patients, g.tec medical engineering, a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology company based in Austria, developed the recoveriX treatment program in 2014. recoveriX uses brain-computer interface technology to electrically stimulate patients’ limbs and train them to move again after being impaired by neurological conditions. The system consists of a personal computer with the monitor in front of the patient, who is wearing a 16-channel EEG headset to read their brainwaves. The monitor displays the patient’s hands in a first-person perspective or feet in a mirror perspective. Electrodes are connected to the patient’s limbs, providing electrical stimulation to muscles and causing dorsiflexion of the joints.
Since the development of recoveriX, g.tec has expanded the availability of the treatment into a dozen countries worldwide through a franchise model for dedicated recoveriX centers, and the system is also available in hospitals and rehabilitation centers in these countries.
In Austria, g.tec’s home market, recoveriX works with multiple franchise partners, making the treatment available in almost every major city in the country. In neighboring Germany, g.tec recently signed franchise agreements with 4 partners, who will establish around 25 recoveriX centers in the country, and it is looking for more partners to meet the demand in Germany. recoveriX is also available in many other European countries, such as Italy, The Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Slovenia.
In North America, recoveriX is available in Canada and Mexico, while it is awaiting approval for the US. In Asia-Pacific, it is available in Israel, Thailand, Hong Kong and has potential partners lined up in Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. In Africa, the treatment is available in Nigeria and South Africa.
g.tec has conducted three clinical studies with recoveriX, with the first two dealing with upper and lower limb treatment for people who have suffered a stroke. The studies showed that recoveriX helped patients regain their motor skills and reduced the spasticity in their limbs. They also observed other improvements, including speech, memory, and bladder control. The third clinical study was on MS, which also showed improvement in motor skills, balance, speech, concentration, fatigue and other areas. These findings are especially important, as the conventional treatment for MS is medication, which can only slow down the progression of the disease.
Dr. Christoph Guger, founder and CEO of g.tec, was studying brain-computer interface systems at the Graz University of Technology for his PhD, when he received inquiries to purchase the BCI system he had developed. Immediately after graduation, he and Dr. Günter Edlinger founded g.tec in 1999, with the first order coming from a university in the UK, followed by a customer in South Korea.
Moving forward, g.tec is planning to conduct clinical studies on other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease and chronic pain. It also plans to look deeper into stroke-based applications, to discover how intervention with recoveriX can help at different states of stroke.
“We’re excited that recoveriX is now available in more countries around the world, and we plan on adding even more to grow our reach,” Guger says. “Neurological conditions such as stroke and MS can have drastic effects on people’s quality of life, and we hope that more people are able to benefit from the improved recovery provided by BCI-based treatments such as recoveriX, which, unlike medication, does not have any negative side effects.”