Newswise — Cal State LA has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the federal government to research the exercise needs of wheelchair users, specifically those with traumatic spinal cord injuries.

The University received the funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, which provides grants to generate new disability and rehabilitation knowledge and promote its use and adoption.

Kinesiology Professor Stéfan Keslacy and his research team aim to improve fitness and reduce disease risk among those who are wheelchair-bound. The team will develop a mobile app that tracks muscle activity and provides feedback. They will also assess the impact of exercise on social participation and quality of life.

Members of the Cal State LA interdisciplinary team include Professors Ray de Leon of kinesiology, Christine Dy of kinesiology, Deborah Won of electrical and computer engineering, and Roxanna Pebdani of special education and counseling.

“A traumatic spinal cord injury is a devastating event with lifelong consequences,” said Keslacy, the principal investigator on the grant. “These individuals are more likely to be affected by chronic diseases due to their extreme sedentary situation. With our expertise in rehabilitation, our team plans to train the clients at the University’s Mobility Center in new methods of exercise.”

The Mobility Center is a service-learning based therapeutic exercise program located on the campus of Cal State LA.

The three-year grant will allow the University to collaborate with Dynofit, a medical device startup company. Dynofit is the maker of Flexdot, a wearable EMG sensor that measures muscle activation in those who are wheelchair-bound. The data will be correlated with blood biomarkers and serve as a foundation for recommendations of activity levels for wheelchair users’ optimal health.

“We are hoping that this collaboration with Dynofit will result in a new mobile app that could help motivate participants to exercise and engage in their own healthcare and rehab,” Keslacy added.

The grant will also provide fellowships for 20 undergraduate and three graduate students per year over a three-year period.

“Cal State LA students will have the opportunity to be involved in every step of the project—from the training of the participants on campus, to data collection and data dissemination,” said Keslacy. “We are extremely happy that this grant will…help many of our students, and minority students in particular, to be involved in research.”