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Doctors test robotic suit to help paraplegics

The Local · 27 May 2011, 16:18

Published: 27 May 2011 16:18 GMT+02:00

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Daily Die Welt reported that the technology could also prove controversial because of the unnatural strength it affords anyone wearing such a suit.

Initial testing is slated to begin at the Bergmannsheil clinic in Bochum this year, head physician Thomas Schildhauer said at a presentation of the new treatment method.

“We believe we can initiate a dramatic change in these patients’ lives,” he told Die Welt.

The suits were developed in Japan and have been successful at over 75 clinics and nursing facilities already using them, according to their producer, Cyberdyne Inc.

Bochum is the first hospital to test the suits in Europe.

The suits will need to be modified before being employed in Germany, Schildhauer said, because of the overall height disparity between Germans and Japanese.

The goal of the robotic suits is to allow not only paraplegic patients, but also the elderly and victims of accidents, to quickly regain a full range of motion.

The researchers also hope the suits will allow patients to relearn specific motion sequences, such as running, that will eventually enable them to move without the help of the suit.

Schildhauer said the suits do not enable a full recovery, but he remains optimistic about the technology’s ability to help improve patients’ lives.

The suit functions by responding to the body’s nerve signals, which are fed into the suit’s computer and converted electronically. When the brain sends a command to move a particular part of the body, the corresponding part of the suit reacts.

Doctors hope the test trials in Bochum will help them learn what type of patient the suit serves most effectively.

Schildhauer estimated that the first results would be available about three months after testing on the first group of patients begins.

Story continues below…

Yoshiyuki Sankai, the CEO of Cyberdyne, said multiple requests to use the suit for non-medical purposes have been turned down. Several military agencies, for example, have inquired about the suits, apparently attracted by the unnatural strength they afford the person wearing it.

All military requests have been rejected though, according to Sankai, because the technology is ultimately intended to benefit people, not hurt them.

Cyberdyne will work through a subsidiary company in Bochum, established Friday in Düsseldorf, to monitor the test trials at the Bergmannsheil clinic.

The Local/adn

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:05 May 28, 2011 by notelove2
This is an amazing development in the treatment of paraplegics. It's a shame that the military agencies have seized on this as a possible war weapon. It will be a fantastic gift to someone who is facing the possibility of life imprisonment in a wheelchair!
13:40 May 28, 2011 by AbhilashD
I don't see why it shouldn't be used in the military.
17:03 May 28, 2011 by Talonx
I'm really happy to be living in an era of greater scientific responsibility.
17:22 May 28, 2011 by chuckwow
I'm really happy to be living in an era when effete, useless people have been so protected from the outside world that they begin to disdain their protectors. Your military is the reason you can make comments that disparage the military... and don't worry: the military will get this technology anyway, so they can go on protecting your right to snivel publicly.
18:22 May 28, 2011 by catjones
similar technology here:

20:22 May 28, 2011 by AbhilashD
@ chuckewow - That's EXACTLY what I keep telling people. People sleep peacefully in their beds because there's a defence force that keeps their borders safe.
21:01 May 28, 2011 by JBlooze
@chuckwow - Just because someone disdains the thought of the military having another tool to maim and destroy others doesn't make them effete, useless people. The military is responsible for many atrocities as well, do you condemn those with equal vigour as you place them on a pedestal where no one should criticize them when they act questionably. The military is an important and useful service but they are NOT above reproach and mentioning this is as patriotic as anything else. So we can all enjoy the right like you are doing of snivelling publicly.
22:02 May 28, 2011 by chuckwow
@JBlooze-Cursing that which sustains one makes one effete and useless. Saying that the military shouldn't have a tool because they might misuse it is like saying you shouldn't be able to comment because you might offend someone.

I wholeheartedly condemn anyone in the military who commits an atrocity. Do you wholeheartedly support the military receiving the support and tools they need to accomplish their "important and useful service" to you?
08:45 May 29, 2011 by Talonx
Wow, how insanely hawkish can you get? The military having a weapon is in no way comparable to a person having free speech, that has to be the dumbest metaphor that has ever been postulated as a proof for the worth of military weapons research.

But, ultimately, the biggest problems in the world have to do with the sacless complainers that can't stand the world changing around them. Conservative folk who need everything to be the same from day to day. Grow a pair and get with the times.
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