Humans are evolutionarily designed for upright walking on two legs for the efficient movement. Stroke can take away this normal walking ability in a fraction of the time. In a multidisciplinary approach, the group of researchers have developed a novel powered wearable robotic exosuit which has high potential to restore normal walking in stroke patients.
In a new study, research teams led by Conor Walsh collaborating with Boston University faculty members Terry Ellis, Lou Awad, and Ken Holt have demonstrated that exosuit can help to improve walking in strokepatients. This research is published in the Journal "Science Translational Medicine."s
A stroke is a "brain attack" which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost. Clinicians have observed that about 80% of stroke patients suffer from hemiparesis- a situation- where one limb loses its ability to function normally.
Despite rehabilitation, the vast majority of stroke survivors retain deficits that prevent walking at speeds suitable for normal and safe community ambulation i.e. independent outdoor mobility.
In a collaborative effort to help stroke patients regain their walking abilities, team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Boston University's (BU) College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College has developed a lightweight, soft wearable robot (exosuit) that interfaces to the paretic limb of persons after stroke via garment-like, functional textile anchors.
These robotic suits (Exosuits) function in coordination with the paretic limb of persons after stroke to overcome insufficiencies in forward movement and ground clearance during hemiparetic walking. Exosuits produce gait-restorative joint torques by transmitting mechanical power from waist-mounted body-worn or off-board actuators to the wearer through the interaction of the textile anchors and a cable-based transmission.
"We wanted to help people by finding the ways to rehabilitate the stroke patients. This technology might allow us to restore the component of normal walking. This is different and wearable by patients, much lighter than a typical exoskeleton. The long-term goal of our study is to develop a soft wearable robotic suit that can be worn as clothing, even at home," said Terry Ellis, Ph.D., P.T., N.C.S., Director of the Center for Neurorehabilitation at BU's College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College and Assistant Professor at BU.
"One person is different than other; new challenge is how you adapt this technology person to person considering their specific walking problems. We are working on various algorithms to know the best time to enter the gait rehabilitation for certain aspect," said Ellis in a telephonic interview.
In ongoing and future research the team is trying to develop personalize exosuit assistance to specific gait abnormalities. Also, they are trying to investigate assistance at other joints such as the hip and knee to assess long-term therapeutic applications of their technology.