Thế “Leo” Nguyen is the driving force behind the Tremelo device, designed to help people with Parkinson’s disease or other tremor disorders lead a more normal life.

published on November 16, 2018 - 7:00 AM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

At Fresno State, a professor and mechanical engineer is getting noticed for a new product that could improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease and tremors.

Born in Vietnam, Thế “Leo” Nguyen first became familiar with tremor-related issues due to the afflictions of those exposed to Agent Orange, a controversial herbicide that was used by the United States during the Vietnam War.

“Of course, I didn’t know what was causing it,” Nguyen said. “Later on, when I was growing up, I knew it was Parkinson’s because of the herbicide chemicals that they were exposed to.”

According to Nguyen, Parkinson’s and other tremor disorders are more prevalent in the Valley as well, a result of the chemicals used for the region’s heavily agricultural economy. The prevalence of this issue prompted Nguyen to look into a possible solution. Coming from a background in vibration control, he began to look for a solution to the tremors, coming up with his idea in 2014.

His solution was the Tremelo device. Designed with the company Five Microns and worn on the patient’s wrist, the Tremelo works on the vibration absorption method, treating the arm and hand as a vibrating mass. With this in mind, a secondary, smaller mass is attached to the patient with a pair of springs. The device then transfers the kinetic energy in the wrist to the small mass, reducing the tremor. This principal is similar to the vibration absorption concept used by engineers for modern skyscrapers, suspension bridges and aircraft wings.

A major group that Nguyen hopes to help with the device is people with moderate to severe essential tremors. Unlike Parkinson’s, which takes place more prevalently when the patient is at rest, essential tremors affect the patient when they are active. This condition can make such everyday tasks as eating, drinking, changing clothes and brushing teeth extremely difficult.

In order to get Five Microns up and running at full speed, Nguyen has reached out to Valley Innovators in Fresno, which aims to help startups that are developing new products. Through Valley Innovators, Nguyen has been getting educational assistance on the human resources and business side of running Five Microns.

“Five Microns is a stellar example of the caliber of company coming out of the Valley ready to disrupt their prospective industries,” said Jennifer Lopez, CEO of Valley Innovators. “Tremelo will not only change the lives of people living with Parkinson’s but is leading the charge for emerging health tech companies coming out of the Valley.”

Aubrey Lim, director of operations for Five Microns, said the trial results for the Tremelo have been highly successful and they are receiving excellent feedback for the prototype.

“All they know is at first they’re spilling their water when they’re trying to drink, or they can’t keep soup on their spoon,” Lim said of the people using the device. “And when they wear it, it reduces tremors by about 85 percent, so they can eat and drink without spilling.”

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