“It’s not a replacement for normal rehabilitation therapy. It’s a new tool for extending and accelerating it.”
Millions of stroke victims worldwide may walk confidently again thanks to soft robotic suits, worn under their clothes. Working at Harvard University in the United States, Irish biomedical engineer Conor Walsh is developing light, close-fitting, textile, elastic and mechanical suits to teach damaged nerves, muscles, tendons and joints to work again. The technology of “soft robotics” has potential to revolutionize the rehabilitation and recovery of patients, enabling them to relearn lost skills at home, their movements guided by the suit and supervised remotely by therapists. The technology could also help people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, ALS, muscular dystrophy and even the frail elderly to keep walking, Walsh says.