eLegs give victims of spinal cord injury independence

Oct 13, 2010 by

18 years ago Amanda Boxtel partially severed her spinal cord in a skiing accident, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Since then she has lived her iife confined to a wheelchair, until today. Amanda is about to stand up. More amazingly Amanda is about to walk, for the first time since her accident.
She as we watch, she slowly begins to lift herself to a standing position, teetering backward and forward on the assistive crutches then she leans forward and takes her first true step in 18 years.
Within minutes she is walking around the warehouse in Berkely, California, guided only by her own choice of which way she wants to go.
Boxtel is wearing a new device which is an exoskeleton called eLEGS. “Walking with eLEGs took some rewiring and relearning,” says Boxtel, “but my body has the muscle memory. And I learned to walk really fast.”
eLegs is specifically designed as a rehabilitation device to help restore walking function to individuals with spinal cord injuries, as well as improving blood circulation and digestion.
John Fogelin, director of engineering at Berkeley Bionics, says the company is working on a sleeker design for eLegs, using smaller batteries and thinner struts, planning for a day when it will be worn underneath one’s clothing. The company plans to begin clinical trials in early 2011, and estimates the cost on the market to be in line with that of a most high-end wheelchairs, around $100,000.

Walking with elegsSensors embedded in the braces that fit around a person’s body respond to real muscular input from the human powering the eLEGS.