Living means more than just surviving

When treating a serious illness the main aim is, of course, to get the person well again – preferably with as few side effects and setbacks as possible. We often equate ‘getting well’ with being free from acute illness. For many people, however, a period of rehabilitation is also needed before they can once again live as they did before becoming ill. The coronavirus pandemic has made us aware that rehabilitation can take a long time and require a lot of effort – both mentally and physically.

One noticeable and very common lingering effect of illness is muscle weakness. In 2020 the Erling-Persson Foundation awarded funding to a materials research project that hopes to contribute to helping people with muscle weakness get mobile again more quickly in the future. In a collaboration between Link ping University (LiU) and the University of Borås, led by Edwin Jager of LiU, research is being carried out into new functional materials. The materials can be spun and woven into textiles, which in turn can react to electrical voltages so that the textile fibres contract like a muscle.

One potential application of the functional materials is to design a textile-based soft “exoskeleton” that can improve mobility in patients with muscle weakness. The team is developing new fibres as well as techniques for spinning these into yarn, and in parallel is developing various methods for weaving the yarns into textiles.

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