"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Magnetic pen set stabilizes writing for Parkinson's patients

May 12, 2023 – Student entrepreneurs at Northwestern University outside Chicago have invented a pen set that enables Parkinson's patients to jot down again despite the discomfort brought on by the disease.

SteadyScrib, a pen specifically designed for these symptoms, is designed to counteract the irregular tremors of Parkinson's disease using pens with a magnetic core and versatile handle. The special pen is designed to assist with three symptoms of Parkinson's disease: tremors, slow movements and rigidity.

A skinny, steel-coated board and 4 magnets hold the paper in place. The pen, stuffed with a weighted core and held with a versatile handle, stabilizes the shaky movements that always affect a Parkinson's patient's ability to jot down. The magnetic force of the pen on the clipboard stabilizes the pen tip, and the user can then write legibly with ease.

Isabelle Mokotoff, a third-year journalism student at Northwestern University and co-founder of SteadyScrib, said her goal was to develop a pen with an intuitive design for Parkinson's patients.

“I think our core values ​​are that we wanted to make it specialized, meaning there isn't a writing solution on the market right now that is specifically designed for people with Parkinson's,” Mokotoff said. “We wanted to specifically target that market because there is such a huge gap in quality of life there.”

Mokotoff got here up with the concept when her grandfather, a lifelong author, lost his ability to jot down as a result of Parkinson's disease. Mokotoff shared her frustration along with her sorority sister and Alexis Chan, a third-year biomedical engineering student at Northwestern University, who worked together to show Mokotoff's vision right into a reality.

Mokotoff and Chan conducted greater than 100 interviews with Parkinson's patients, their relations, and occupational therapists to verify the necessity for a writing tool for Parkinson's patients.

They tested several materials before deciding on neodymium magnets as the important thing to developing a pen that might ease the tremors of individuals with the condition. Using the 3D printer within the garage, Northwestern University's innovation lab, the scholars created the primary prototypes last summer. They then set about testing the pen sets at an area Parkinson's support group, the Evanston Movers and Shakers.

The SteadyScrib pen set, created with 3D printers within the Garage, an interdisciplinary entrepreneurship space for college students at Northwestern University.

Cissy Lacks, a member of Movers and Shakers, tried the SteadyScrib pen set and said it worked higher than other pens she had tried before. Lacks has suffered from Parkinson's disease with mild symptoms for 3 years. As a theater critic for the local newspaper Round table from EvanstonLacks hopes to make use of the invention to take notes during job interviews.

She said the pen kit also covers needs reminiscent of writing cards to family and friends, filling out forms and questionnaires for the doctor's office or writing checks.

“Instead of my hand stopping or getting tired, it moved very easily,” Lacks said. “So my hand didn't have to work very hard to [the pen] work. And the size of the letters stays the same, which is really important.”

Lacks said that when living with Parkinson's, it's vital to perform an motion with intention. But when writing, that's only temporarily true because letters are inclined to get smaller as a result of dysgraphia, a neurological condition that affects handwriting in numerous ways. She said SteadyScrib seems to unravel that problem.

“I can really think about the font and it looks fine, but two lines later it can be much smaller. But that wasn't the case with this system. It stayed pretty much the same,” she said.

The SteadyScrib pen set features a pen with a neodymium magnetic core and a metallic metal sheet under the paper.

Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer of the American Parkinson Disease Association, said she has seen supplies and pens for Parkinson's patients, but no device that uses magnets to stabilize tremors.

Gilbert said Parkinson's disease affects patients' motor planning skills, especially when the patient is resting. Dystonia, or involuntary muscle contractions, and dyskinesia, or muscle spasms, are some symptoms that may interfere with the writing process.

According to Mokotoff, greater than 1,000 people have added their names to a Waiting list for a SteadyScrib kit. Demand is outpacing production capability within the innovation space on campus, so SteadyScrib is now on the lookout for a partner to assist scale production to satisfy customer needs. SteadyScrib received five grants totaling $43,680, and Mokotoff said SteadyScrib is working with several potential partners fascinated with manufacturing the product.

Chan said SteadyScrib plans so as to add an extra feature to retract the pen tip to stop ink drying. SteadyScrib can be working on adapting the pen to its users' Parkinson's symptoms.

For example, patients exhibit a spectrum of Parkinson's symptoms resulting from tremors or other neurological problems. Mokotoff said her team is working to adapt the pen based on these findings to create a more comprehensive and responsive product.

“We have our pen [based] amongst essentially the most regularly rated inhibition symptoms,” said Mokotoff. “But you realize, the issue can't be divided into all cases.”

Parkinson's is a neurological disorder that, in severe cases, causes shaky movements or difficulty walking and speaking. As symptoms progress, fine motor skills such as writing become increasingly difficult. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Parkinson's is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the United States, after Alzheimer's.

SteadyScrib is patented and the co-founders send monthly updates on the development through a newsletter.