Interview with Dr. Julie Kux, Project Management & Business Development at University spin-off 3Digity
Following an injury or surgery, orthotics are key components of the recovery and rehabilitation process. The University spin-off 3Digity designs 3D-printed customized finger orthoses to foster rehabilitation as custom orthotics can drastically speed up the recovery process.
3Digity team with Dr. Julie Kux (2nd from left)
In this MEDICA.de interview, Dr. Julie Kux talks about the current state of research pertaining to the finger orthosis, explains what makes it so different from similar devices and reveals the next steps of the project.
Dr. Kux, how did you come up with the idea for the orthosis?
Dr. Julie Kux: Our teammate Miguel Bravo started us off when he developed algorithms as part of his bachelor’s thesis. This provided the framework for the customized finger orthosis calculation. From an early age, he was interested in the anatomy and complexity of the human hand. It prompted him to transfer to the ArtLab of the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) to join the many experts and scientists on location who specialize in the hand structure. As an exchange student in the master’s program, his goal was to expand on the idea with the help of the respective subject-matter experts. This gradually evolved into the project and the subsequent University spin-of named 3Digity.
What makes your orthosis different from similar devices?
Kux: We want to design custom dynamic orthoses that are the perfect fit for the patient’s finger and the type of injury. Orthoses are typically mass-produced and thus not custom-fitted. Many orthoses only target individual finger joints, but 3D printing enables us to make custom-fit orthotics. This allows us to fit the entire finger with a dynamic orthosis and focus on full joint mobilization.
How does the orthosis support hand therapy and rehabilitation?
Kux: The finger orthosis can be immediately used at home, allowing patients to start rehabilitation soon after an injury or surgery. When it comes to finger injuries, early mobilization is crucial for a quick and full recovery. Our hands and fingers are our most important tools, making mobility of the finger joints incredibly important. What’s more, when subject to immobilization, our finger anatomy exhibits a tendency to adhesion formation.
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How do patients prepare for the rehabilitation process?
Kux: Patients receive the necessary medical care and treatment after they suffered an injury. Depending on the type of injury, this includes both conservative and surgical treatment and procedures. Ideally, rehabilitation also entails assistive technology and resources, including orthotic devices and physical therapy. The physician prescribes an orthosis, which is fitted by an orthopedic technician.
Right now, we are in the research phase and are exploring the best way to manage certain disease patterns. We are also considering our technical options. The subsequent process of certification is another critical factor. We are defining a fitting application and currently cannot specify any solid indications that affect the rehabilitation process. That being said, rehabilitation should always promote the range of motion of a joint to allow for passive finger flexion and extension.
The rehabilitation process also includes the provision of aids and remedies, such as orthotics.
Which fingers does the orthosis address?
Kux: We are currently targeting a device for the index finger (second digit of the hand), meaning a specific clinical picture. Since we use this finger the most, it is the most commonly injured digit. For the time being, we are excluding the thumb from our studies since its structure and mobility (as the first digit of the human hand) differs from the other four fingers of the human hand.
What are your next steps?
Kux: The support we have received enables us to now take the next steps and put the project into practice. We will utilize the time and resources to focus on the required certification process and prepare for the clinical trials. Our long-term goal is to expand this orthotic concept to include other fingers and applications. Further down the road, we also plan to translate our orthotic concept to include other types of joints.
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