Exoskeleton Has Wheelchair Users Back On Their Feet - New York News

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Exoskeleton Has Wheelchair Users Back On Their Feet

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WEST ORANGE, N.J.- Cindy Cullinane has spent the past thirteen years in a wheelchair, after losing most of her leg function in a car accident. The latest technology has provided her with some remarkable results.

Cindy is using what's called an exoskeleton. It has motors at the hips and knees, and sensors underneath the foot pedals. For the first time in more than a decade, Cindy can put one foot in front of the other, without any pain.

"Once you're standing up, the world is so much better up here," Cindy explains.

Cindy is one of thirteen patients participating in a three-year study at the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, New Jersey.

Patients have 100 sessions with the exoskeleton and Dr. Gail Forrest tracks their progress.

If things go according to plan, a new exoskeleton will make its debut at the World Cup in Brazil in June.

If Brazilian-born neuroscientist, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, gets his way, a paralyzed young adult will walk onto the field and kick a soccer ball with the help of an exoskeleton.

Dr. Nicolelis created a robot that taps signals from the brain to operate prosthetic limbs.

Dr. Steven Kirshblum is the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation Medical Director and says displaying a new exoskeleton on the world stage, could help make wheelchairs obsolete.

"Think of it, whenever you want to walk, you're not consciously thinking about it but your brain is telling the limbs what to do," begins Dr. Kirshblum. "In the case of a spinal cord injury, the message is still there, the brain still wants to walk but is unable to because the message is cut so the communication is cut. Now the message can bypass the damage area because it's connected to a computer that controls the limbs through the exoskeleton and allows the patient to walk in this device."

Exoskeletons are only available to rehabilitation centers and cost close to $150,000. Experts hope that cost will come down if the technology becomes more widespread.

That's what Cindy is hoping for.

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