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Ekso in action  (Source: kesslerfoundation.org)
The Kessler Foundation tested the Ekso exoskeleton on six individuals restricted to a wheelchair

Standing and walking may soon become part of daily life again for those restricted to wheelchairs thanks to the Kessler Foundation and Ekso Bionics' robotic exoskeleton "Ekso."

The Kessler Foundation, one of the largest public charities supporting those with disabilities, along with exoskeleton creator Ekso Bionics, announced in mid October that they had chosen six participants for the testing of their exoskeleton "Ekso," which is a battery-powered, robotic exoskeleton that can be worn by a disabled individual like a suit. It then allows the person to stand up or walk again.

While Ekso Bionics supplies the exoskeleton, Kessler Foundation and the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation research the science behind the disability and work on the body through retraining of the nervous system via locomotor training, epidural stimulation and more.

“By studying various forms of treatment for paralysis, we identify what course of action works best for each individual,” said Dr. Gail Forrest, Ph.D., Interim Director of Human Performance and Movement Analysis Research at Kessler Foundation. “Robotic technology adds another dimension to rehabilitation by simulating a normal walking pattern. We’ve seen that repetitive motion retrains the nervous system so that individuals, in some cases, redevelop walking patterns, but regular movement also prevents secondary complications of paralysis, including cardiac and lung weakness, poor bone density and pressure ulcers. Quality of life drastically improves.”

After participating in one week of preliminary testing back in October, the six participants were able to show researchers what is needed in order to conduct a successful clinical trial, which is expected to begin in January 2012. For instance, researchers will have a better idea of how to select participants with spinal cord injuries for the trial.

Five of the patients have paraplegia, and the sixth has quadriplegia. They ranged in duration of injury from four months to two years, and were ages 27 to 45.

Below is a video that shares the six participants' experiences during the one-week preliminary testing:



Ekso is only used in a rehabilitation environment for now, but researchers plan to extend the exoskeleton to home and community use in 2013.

Exoskeleton's are not only being used for rehabilitative purposes, but also in military settings. Just last year, Lockheed Martin introduced the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC), which is a full suit that can be worn by soldiers in order to evade attacks, effortlessly lift objects up to 200 lbs, and weather the elements with ease.

Sources: Kessler Foundation, Eurekalert



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My word, science can be beautiful
By geddarkstorm on 12/16/2011 2:24:18 PM , Rating: 3
This is the stuff that just brings a smile to my face. Think of it, an age where paralysis is no longer a life sentence of immobility, no longer a condemnation to not being able to enjoy the simple functional activities the rest of us can. But instead, with an exosuit, a person can walk and run, and live life freely in the physical sense.

Heck, we're working on tactile feedback, so eventually we may even be able to give these suits a synthetic skill and let people where spinal injury to actually feel again, as well as move.

It is so exciting. I can't wait to see where this technology goes, and how fast.




RE: My word, science can be beautiful
By The Raven on 12/16/2011 3:30:53 PM , Rating: 2
Yes it is truely nice to have this as an alternative to stem cell research with the same application. I'm not favoring one over the other but should we hit a delay or dead end on either front, there still might be hope for those in need.


By geddarkstorm on 12/20/2011 2:49:49 PM , Rating: 2
This at least has wider application than stem cell, as there'll always be rejection and cancer issues, let alone improper or incomplete regeneration. Stem cell will be like any other drug therapeutic, where it works great for some and not at all that well for others. This can bridge the gap for those "not as well" folks.

Personally, I prefer the regenerative medicine, ala stem cells--but anything is better than being left immobilized from paralysis.


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