Paraplegics Walk Again Thanks to New Technology

More and more disabled persons who were previously unable to walk are now using exoskeletons called “re-walkers” to get around. Exoskeletons allow paraplegics to perform daily upright activities: get up from a chair, remain standing, walk and even climb stairs. It is fairly easy to use. It is a kind of highly technological armor which requires a technician’s assistance to be attached around the legs, chest and back. The person must continue to use crutches for a little time before being able to walk “normally”. The idea is to find the balance point. Medical authorities in the United States have already approved this technology seven years ago. It has just been proposed to Anthony, a young Frenchman, who has been in a wheelchair since 2014. Since the device costs 80,000 €, Anthony started fundraising to accomplish his dream of testing and eventually owning the exoskeleton. “I hope to be able to buy one to use at home on a daily basis (…) I know it won’t enable me to walk like before, nor replace my wheelchair, but psychologically, it has become a real pleasure to be able to stand and move around. In addition, scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have recently developed a new technology using electrical stimulation which enabled 3 paraplegic men to walk again. The three participants were 28, 35 and 47 year-olds who had been paralyzed for longer than 4 years as a consequence of an accident. After a few days of specifically targeted electrical stimulation, they regained partial control of their leg movements. Using supports, they were able to use a treadmill; and after long weeks of intensive rehabilitation, they were capable of walking, either with or without a walker. This ambulatory progress remained even after the electrical stimulation was stopped. The Swiss research team (30 specialists including neurosurgeons, neurologists, physiotherapists, engineers, neuroscientists, physicists), is now planning to launch a clinical test with about 20 patients suffering from recent spinal cord injuries.  This gives significant hope to all paraplegics, including approximately 50,000 in France.]]>

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