DEC 18, 2015 6:48 AM PST

Bionic Exoskeleton Help Paraplegics Take New Steps

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Since 2005, Ekso Bionics' wearable computerized "exoskeleton" suit has helped wheelchair-bound individuals take over 20 million steps that would otherwise would have been impossible. Complete with weight-activated sensors and battery-powered motors, the suit provides external support and replicates natural muscle movements. Users are able to walk by shifting their weight and activating the weight sensors, which initiate step-like movements.

As the suits become even more lightweight and the battery life is extended further, Ekso founder Russ Angold hopes the bionic suit could replace the wheelchair all together. Currently the FDA has approved of one similar computerized exoskeleton device, the ReWalk. However, one big limitation for both bionic suits is the need of arm control for balance. With more tinkering and breakthroughs though, a bionic suit for quadriplegics may also be a reality one day.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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