Where we are now: Today’s standard test for assessing muscle function in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a degenerative neuromuscular disease, is the “6-minute walk test”—which measures how far a child can walk in 6 minutes.
“In a disease where over half of your patients end up in wheelchairs by age 12, it presents some obvious problems,” says the U’s DeWayne Townsend, an associate professor in the Medical School’s Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology.
A better way: Townsend partnered with the College of Science and Engineering’s Will Durfee and a group of mechanical engineering students to design a video game that requires kids to generate force using a cleverly disguised hand grip. From this data, researchers can measure strength, fatigue development, and fine motor skills.
How gifts help: The game was created with funding from the Greg Marzolf Jr. Foundation.
What's next: A clinical study will determine whether the video game provides an accurate measurement of muscle strength in kids with DMD. If it does, Townsend envisions that a test like this could one day replace the walk test as a longer-lasting—and more fun—way to measure muscle function.