Robotic suit helps kids with cerebral palsy walk tall
Around the world, most children can be found running across playgrounds or skipping up and down stairs with ease.
Yet for children with cerebral palsy, a group of neurological disorders that affect the ability to move, simply walking can be difficult — and some with cerebral palsy might not be able to walk at all.
Now, a team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in the United States has created a robotic exoskeleton that could help many of these children walk easier.
The researchers recently demonstrated in a study that the exoskeleton — which looks more like superhero armor than medical equipment — was safe and well-tolerated and could be worn while the children walked on their own.
The researchers also demonstrated that improvements in walking with the exoskeleton increased over time as the children continued to use it, according to the study, published in August in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“Our exoskeleton provides assistance to improve upright posture when worn while still requiring the person to control their own muscles and stability,” said Diane Damiano, chief of the Functional and Applied Biomechanics section in the NIH Clinical Center’s Rehabilitation Medicine Department and a co-author of the study.
“Children with cerebral palsy have a physical disability that persists their entire life, so they need to be continuously monitoring and working to maintain their motor functioning as part of their everyday lives,” she said. “Wearable devices could provide a novel mechanism to do this.”
Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development in the part of the brain that controls movement. Although there is no cure, supportive treatments, medications and surgery can help improve motor skills.
To watch a demonstration of the robot click here