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Tag: north carolina state university

Prototype device allows blind people to keep tabs on the health of their guide dogs

mealin

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a device that allows blind people to better monitor the health and well-being of their guide dogs.

The researchers are fine tuning a vibrating harness that monitor a dog’s breathing and heart rate and shares the information with the dog’s handler, according to NC State News.

“Our goal is to let guide dog handlers know when their dogs are stressed or anxious,” said Sean Mealin, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the technology.

Mealin is blind and works with his own guide dog, Simba.

“This is important because it is widely believed that stress is a significant contributing factor to early retirement of guide dogs and other service animals,” Mealin said. “The technology may also be able to help handlers detect other health problems, such as symptoms of heat exhaustion.”

The researchers developed a specialized handle, equipped with two vibrating motors, that attaches to a guide dog’s harness.

harnessOne motor is embedded in the handle by the handler’s thumb, and vibrates – or beats – in time with the dog’s heart rate.

When the dog’s heart rate increases, so does the rate at which the motor beats.

The second motor is embedded in the handle near the handler’s pinky finger, and vibrates in synch with the dog’s breathing. The vibration increases and decreases in intensity, to simulate the dog breathing in and out.

“Dogs primarily communicate through their movements and posture, which makes it difficult or impossible for people who are blind to fully understand their dogs’ needs on a moment-to-moment basis,” said David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of the paper.

“This challenge is particularly pronounced in guide dogs, who are bred and trained to be outwardly calm and avoid drawing attention to themselves in public.”

The paper, “Towards the Non-Visual Monitoring of Canine Physiology in Real-Time by Blind Handlers,” was presented yesterday at the Second International Congress on Animal Computer Interaction, in Johor, Malaysia.

(Photos: NC State News)

Pit bulls may provide clues to brain disease

Scientists have discovered a gene mutation that causes a fatal neurodegenerative disease in American Staffordshire terriers, and they say the same gene may also be linked to a fatal brain disease in humans.

The discovery of the gene may lead to improved screening and diagnosis of the disease in dogs, and could be a first step in developing a cure for NCLs (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses) in humans, Business Week reports.

NCLs are a family of diseases that lead to mental and motor deterioration and death.

Adult-onset NCL affects one of every 400 registered American Staffordshire terriers, according to research team member Dr. Natasha Olby, an associate professor of neurology at North Carolina State University.

Genetic analysis revealed the location of the specific gene and an entirely new mutation that has not been reported in people.

In humans, NCLs such as Batten disease mostly affect children, but there is an adult-onset form called Kufs’ disease that causes gradual death of brain neurons, resulting in vision loss, epilepsy, loss of coordination and dementia, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The findings mean that researchers can now conduct tests to determine if the same mutation is responsible for Kufs’ disease in humans.

Cassidy adjusting well to “bionic” leg

Cassidy, the three-legged dog we first told you about last month, seems to be getting around well on his new prosthetic leg, if the footage in this CBS report is any indication.

Cassidy was missing one of his hind legs when he was adopted from a New York City shelter in 2005 by Steven and Susan Posovsky.

Veterinary Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine outfitted Cassidy, a German shepherd mix, with his new titanium leg in July — after much trial and error.

“We worked for about a year first to try to design an external brace that was fairly sophisticated, but did not work very well,” Marcellin-Little told CBS .

“There were two removable legs were made for him. Slip-on legs, which he was able to just kick off,” Steven Posovsky said. “At that point, they took out some computer diagrams and said let’s look into this possibility of an osteo-integrated leg.”

Cassidy’s artificial leg is a permanent prosthetic. A titanium rod was implanted into Cassidy’s lower leg bone. Over several months, they fused together. A custom designed carbon fiber foot with a rubber tread for traction screws right on to the implant.

“Now he walks for two, three hours and not a hint of fatigue,” Steven Posovsky said. “Watching him run on the beach is a very emotional thing for me personally. But a lot of tears of joy.”

With titanium leg, Cassidy may run again

A year ago, it was a struggle just to keep up on family walk. Now, with help from doctors at N.C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and some state of the art technology, Cassidy has the ability to run again.

Since getting an implanted prosthesis in his leg in July, 6-year-old Cassidy has been back to the vet school several times to make sure the implant was fusing with the bone, making it stable enough to support what would eventually become Cassidy’s right hind leg. On Tuesday, doctors fitted Cassidy with a titanium leg complete with a running foot that will replace a temporary peg leg Cassidy has been wearing.

Steve Posovsky, Cassidy’s owner, said the dog’s artificial leg has gotten a lot of attention. “You can’t even walk down the street,” he said. “People take pictures of him, you get stopped constantly … ‘What is this, how did it happen? I’ve never seen it before. Can I take a picture with him?’ It’s non-stop.”

The new titanium prosthesis and its padded “foot” are designed to be more lifelike than typical artificial limbs, allowing Cassidy’s leg to bend naturally. A carbon fuse inside the prosthesis allows for rotation of the leg and guards against undue stress on the implant.

Doctors say the technology is moving in the right direction for eventual use in humans.