The development of drugs to treat strokes is a multibillion-dollar endeavour that rarely pays off in the form of government-approved pharmaceuticals.

“The lengthy process is inefficient, costly and discouraging," said Hermano Igo Krebs, a principal research scientist in Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) department of mechanical engineering.

The researchers found that by using a robot's measurements to gauge patient performance, companies might only have to test 240 patients to determine whether a drug works - a reduction of 70 percent that would translate to a similar reduction in time and cost.

Pharmaceutical companies could use the robot measurements to guide early decisions on whether to further pursue or abandon a certain drug. If, after 240 patients, a drug has no measurable effect, the company can pursue other therapeutic avenues.

If, however, a drug improves performance in 240 robot-measured patients, the pharmaceutical company can continue investing in the trial with confidence that the drug would ultimately pass the clinical tests, informed Krebs.

The robot, named MIT-Manus robot, has mainly been used as a rehabilitation tool. Patients play a video game by maneuvering the robot's arm with the robot assisting as needed.

While the robot has mainly been used as a form of physical therapy, Krebs says it can also be employed as a measurement tool.

Once a company reaches a Phase III clinical trial, it may use the MIT-Manus robot as a more efficient way to evaluate the drug's impact, said the study published in journal Stroke.


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