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Soft suit exoskeleton improved walking ability for patients after stroke

A soft suit exoskeleton aided more normal walking ability for ambulatory patients following a stroke, according to results published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers at Boston University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering studied the prototype exoskeleton created by the Wyss Institute, according to a press release from ReWalk Robotics Ltd. The company reported it plans to commercialize the product.

“This foundational study shows that soft wearable robots can have significant positive impact on gait functions in patients post-stroke, and it is the result of a translational-focused multidisciplinary team of engineers, designers, biomechanists, physical therapists and most importantly patients who volunteered for this study and gave valuable feedback that guided our research,” researcher Conor Walsh, PhD, Wyss core faculty member and the founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab, said in the release.

There were nine patients  in the study, which highlighted the potential gait assistance and training during walking. Walsh and colleagues reported that paretic limb function improvement led to a reduction in forward propulsion interlimb asymmetry and in energy cost of walking.

“Relatively low assistance (~12% of biological torques) delivered with a lightweight and nonrestrictive exosuit was sufficient to facilitate more normal walking in ambulatory individuals after stroke,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Lightweight designs of the exoskeleton are being developed by ReWalk with the Wyss Institute to complete clinical studies and to pursue regulatory approvals. Commercial applications are being planned for patients who had stroke, followed by patients with multiple sclerosis, the company reported.

 

References:

Awad LN, et al. Sci Transl Med. 2017;doi:10.1126/scietranslmed.aai9084.

www.rewalk.com

 

Disclosures: Patents have been filed with U.S. Patent Office describing the exosuit components documented in the study. Walsh reports he is an author of the patents and patent applications, and is a paid consultant to ReWalk Robotics. Please see the full study for a list of the other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

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