Harvard Scientists To Develop Wearable Exosuits For People With Limb Disabilities

Posted: May 18 2016, 12:12pm CDT | by , Updated: May 18 2016, 8:31pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Harvard Scientists to Develop Wearable Exosuits for People with Limb Disabilities
Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

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The robotic exosuits will mimic the natural biomechanics of the human musculoskeletal system and will assist the patients with lower limb disabilities.

Lower limb disability restricts a person’s mobility and physical functioning and can create hindrance in ever facets of daily life.

Now, researchers from Wyss Institute at Harvard and ReWalk Robotics have teamed up to create lightweight and soft exosuit for aiding people with limb disability. These exosuits will help people who have lost their mobility due to stroke or multiple sclerosis to walk on their own without human assistance.

“This is a very exciting day for the soft exosuit technology,” said Conor Walsh, a member of Wyss Institute. “ReWalk brings commercialization expertise and experience in the area of wearable robotics and complements our translation-focused research. Ultimately this agreement paves the way for this technology to make its way to patients.”

In recent years, we have seen great advances in robotic exosuit technology and translating it into movement of paralyzed people. But the new soft robotic exosuit will be developed with a new perspective since it involve different scientific disciplines such as roboticists, mechanical and biomechanical engineering, apparel designing, and software engineering.

“What makes the soft exosuit’s development so unique is the extreme multi-disciplinary nature of the work. In addition to our varied technical expertise as a team, our research with voluntary study participants has been central to our understanding of how we need to design and build these exosuits.” Project leader Kathleen O’Donnell said.

Hard and rigid are terms that are typically used to describe robotic exosuit and exoskeletons. These contemporary exosuits make wearer walk more like a robot than a human. But Harvard researchers are aiming to design an exosuit that is lightweight and comfortable to wear yet provide great control over movement and help its wearer to replicate the “natural biomechanics of the human musculoskeletal system.”

“The soft exosuit is a wonderful of how understanding how living systems work – in this case movement and control of the human body – can inspire design of an innovative wearable robotic technology that has the potential to change the future of medicine.” Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber said.

There are an estimated 3 million stroke and 400,000 MS patients in United States who are suffering from limited mobility due to lower limb disability. And the next generation of exosuits will potentially change the lives of all those people.

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