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The Polish Science Voice
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From the Publisher
March 3, 2014   
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In an exclusive interview with The Warsaw Voice, Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure and Development Minister Elżbieta Bieńkowska has said that new medical technology could be among the specialties in which Poland could excel in the world. Bieńkowska is responsible for the strategic development of the country, including overseeing the spending of funds that Poland receives from the European Union under the Cohesion Policy. In the previous EU budget covering the 2007-2013 period Poland was allotted 80 billion euros. In the next EU budget, covering the period from 2014 to 2020, this amount increased to 100 billion euros. A sizable part of these funds is spent on innovation.

The Polish Science Voice closely follows how these huge amounts are spent in Polish science and how—through the science sector—they aid the development of innovative technologies. Most often the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR) acts as an intermediary in the distribution of this money. The center selects the most promising projects for financial support. Many of these are connected with medicine.

This issue of The Polish Science Voice contains an interview with young inventor Michał Mikulski, the head of the “lower limb rehabilitation exoskeleton” project as part of which he has built a robotic device that helps people with muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis move their limbs. A postgraduate robotics student at the Silesian University of Technology in the southern city of Gliwice, Mikulski designs ultramodern devices for the rehabilitation of patients. These devices, called exoskeletons, detect subtle electrical impulses in muscles using a technique called electromyography (EMG). Exoskeletons aid the movement of the limbs, without burdening the spine.

Showered with numerous international awards and financially supported by the National Center for Research and Development, Mikulski has set up a special start-up company at his university to produce the innovative robotic device he invented. Some say the invention may revolutionize the market for rehabilitation equipment. Mikulski’s company, called EgzoTech, has been named one of the best start-ups worldwide.

“We are finalizing work on the EgzoEMG robot,” Mikulski tells The Polish Science Voice. “Our robot will be the only one of its kind available worldwide that has an EMG mode, or electromyography offering a chance of active rehabilitation using electrical activity in the muscles of patients, even very weak ones.”

Mikulski adds, “We have two Polish patent applications and have expanded our patents worldwide under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) procedure. This protection method is difficult to circumvent. We will be the only company that sells robots of this class.”

Meanwhile, a group of researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Center of Polymer and Carbon Materials in the southern city of Gliwice—in a team-up with colleagues from several other Polish research centers—are working on an innovative method for culturing human skin. This promising project is also co-financed by the National Center for Research and Development.

The coordinator of the project, Prof. Andrzej Dworak, says, “We are working to create a sheet of skin cells that doctors could easily move to a wound. The substitute skin prepared in this way, cultured in vitro on innovative, polymer substrates and applied to a properly prepared wound, can decidedly speed up the healing process.”

The scientists say they are working on a technique that could be applied on a wider scale. Cell culture substrates obtained as a result of the project have been submitted for patenting. The team still has two years to determine the size of the potential market for the method—and to determine the terms and conditions for a producer willing to buy a license and produce skin substitutes on an industrial scale.
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