The new bionic suit controls leg muscles and help paralyzed people move their legs back and forth.
Researchers at UCLA accomplished a unique feat when they made a completely paralyzed man walk on his own.
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They did that with the help of a robotic exoskeleton that controls the leg muscles and helps paralyzed people walk. Irish-born Mark Pollock was the first subject in UCLA experiment who tried the bionic suit and took thousands of steps using the device.
The 39-year old Mark Pollock was paralyzed from the waist down after falling from a second-story window in 2010. But Pollock, who has also been blind for 16 years, never lost his hope. He started to use wheelchair to push himself from one place to another but he was equally ready to try any innovation that came down the track.
Pollock’s spinal injury was severe in nature and his spinal cord had been pierced in two pieces, but four years of rigorous rehabilitation made him regain enough control to use the device. The bionic device which is called “Ekso” has sensors and programs that allow patient to stimulate nerves and rotate his legs back and forth on their own.
“Based on the data from the case study it appears that there is a considerable potential for positive synergistic effects after complete paralysis by combining the overground stepping in an exoskeleton,” V. Reggie Edgerton said in a statement.
“It will be difficult to get people with chronic, complete paralysis to walk completely independently but even if they don't accomplish that, the fact they can assist themselves in walking will greatly improve their overall health and quality of life.
Before using the device, Pollock had to go through a series of physical therapy sessions and spinal stimulation training to reactivate the neurons of his spinal cord vertebrate.
“Stimulation improved he coordination patterns of the lower limb muscles resulting in a more continuous, smooth stepping motion in the exoskeleton.” Authors wrote.
Pollock was the first paralyzed patient who was back on his feet and able to achieve mobility with the help of the bionic device.
“It felt, like, right,” said Pollock. “It felt like it used to be.”
But Pollock is not the only one who is prepared for using this device. Five more completely paralyzed persons are also receiving 45-minute training session for 18 weeks and regaining voluntarily control over their legs.
"We think the future in robotics and rehabilitation is that the device will assist but will not completely take over, so the person has to regain some voluntary movement and to assist the device in making voluntary movements," said Edgerton. "The robot will do less and less and the subject will do more and more."
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The research was published this week in IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.