Bionic clinic offers robot legs for paraplegics

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The first clinic giving spinal injury patients a chance to take steps forward in a bionic suit has opened in Yorkshire.

The artificial skeleton, or exoskeleton, designed for patients with spinal cord injuries and other neurological weaknesses gives them the opportunity to stand and walk under clinical supervision.

David Follet is fitted into the Exoskeleton

David Follet is fitted into the Exoskeleton

The wearable robot, powered by batteries, powers up the paralysed muscles of paraplegics, enabling them to stand and walk.

Yesterday the UK’s first Ekso Centre, opened in Leeds, at specialist clinic, Technology in Motion, at Whinmoor. It will carry out research as well as being able to offer private treatment to patients.

Andy Hayes, MD of Ekso Bionics in Europe, said: “This is very new and exciting technology.”

It will be used by David Follett, Suzanne Edwards and Andrew Glenie, all of whom suffered a spinal cord injury, who are among the first UK test pilots of the exoskeleton.

Mr Follett, 22, from Exeter, became an incomplete tetraplegic following a car accident.

He spent seven months in hospital undergoing rehabilitation. Since then he has rebuilt his life, forging a career in wheelchair badminton.

“It is such a great feeling to walk again, virtually by myself, it feels really natural,” he said.

Mr Glenie, 43, from Sissington, in Kent, suffered a spinal cord injury in 1993 during an accident while sidecar racing. He says the suit has improved his posture.

To use Ekso, patients will have to be cleared and screened by a physician to ensure they have a good range of motion in all leg joints, reasonable upper body strength and they must be proficient with sitting balance and transfers from wheelchair to other surfaces.