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Exosuit normalizes walking for stroke patients

December 1st, 2017 / By: / Projects

Designed to look like sports clothing, the exosuit is lightweight, flexible, virtually invisible to others, and individualized for each patient. Researchers are working to make it available for clinical use to help stroke patients in their recovery. Photo: Rolex Awards, Fred Merz.

About 80 percent of people who suffer a stroke lose functionality in a limb—a clinical phenomenon called hemiparesis. Even if those patients return to walking, normal gait can be affected. Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Boston University’s College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College are developing a soft, wearable ankle-assisting exosuit designed to help reinforce a normal gait in people with hemiparesis after a stroke.

To test the exosuit, researchers anchored it to the affected limb of a hemiparetic stroke patient via functional apparel. The suit provides gait-restoring forces to the ankle joint by transferring mechanical power using a cable-based transmission from battery-powered actuators integrated into a hip belt or an off-board cart located next to a treadmill.

The team also observed a reduced functional asymmetry between the paretic and non-paretic limbs of participants and found that the exosuit’s assistance enabled them to walk more efficiently.

In tests walking in the home or communal environment, an untethered exosuit also had the ability to facilitate more normal walking behavior: a key step toward developing exosuits as rehabilitation devices for patients to use outside of the clinic. For more information, visit www.bu.edu.

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