Northwestern U undergrads invent pen to help Parkinson's patients

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Friday, May 19, 2023
Northwestern undergrads invent pen to help Parkinson's patients
A group of Northwestern University undergraduates have designed a unique pen to help Parkinson's disease patients write as their illness progresses.

EVANSTON (WLS) -- An all-female group of undergraduate entrepreneurs at Northwestern University have designed a unique pen that could help Parkinson's patients keep their ability to write as the illness progresses.

ABC7 spoke to the inventors about their personal connection to the mission and how they hope to transform care for Parkinson's patients.

"Pops was the most amazing person," said Izzy Mokotoff, SteadyScrib co-founder. "He was an amazing, loving, grandfather, father, husband, but he also had this true, lifelong love of writing,"

Mokotoff said her grandfather, Neal Andelman, was a titan in her life who would write weekly, handwritten letters to her, her siblings, and cousins. But around eight years after his Parkinson's diagnosis, he was unable to continue.

"His symptoms began to become quite debilitating, limiting his movement, limiting specifically how much he was able to control his hand and write," she said.

When the tremors and shaking from Parkinson's robbed him of his ability to write, Mokotoff said she had to act. So she and her sorority sister Alexis Chan, a biomedical engineering major, became partners to find a solution, and after trial and error, came up with this.

"We call it the SteadyScrib pen set, So it comes with a pen and a steel backing, a magnetic backing...the magnets in the tip of the pen attract to the back steel to counteract against tremors," said Co-Founder Alexis Chan.

The SteadyScrib pen is 3D printed. Those magnets inside keep it connected to the page, and a larger grip helps with rigidity Parkinson's patients can feel in their hands, while other magnets hold the writing paper in place.

Parkinson's patients who've tried the SteadyScrib said it's empowered them on their journey with the illness.

"It really makes writing easier. That's the main thing," said Cissy Lacks, Evanston Movers and Shakers Parkinson's Support Group.

Cissy Lacks was diagnosed with Parkinson's just a few years ago and is part of an Evanston support group. She says the SteadyScrib makes all the difference for her writing. 8

"i can't take notes. So it's really tough," she said. "When i was writing with this SteadyScrib, it flowed...the system is really ingenious. I have to give them credit. It's really ingenious."

Now the pair have a provisional patent on the device and are working to find a fabricator to make them to scale. They say 1,500 people with Parkinson's disease are on a waiting list for the device.