The Symbitron project introduces a ground-breaking innovation of impaired motor functions rehabilitation: adaptable exoskeleton. Such robotic devices are becoming more and more popular as solutions to assist impaired motor functions patients.

“Clinical tests showed that hardware and software could be adjusted to the specific characteristics of these subjects providing a proof of the feasibility of our unique approach."

Spinal cord injuries can lead to impaired movement in the lower body. Recently, researchers have been working on an innovative way of treating spinal cord injuries and hence restoring partial movement. The new strategy introduces so-called assistive exoskeletons that help to activate the neuromuscular system, which is believed to improve motor recovery. In order to be successful, exoskeletons must be responsive to both the user and the environment – an ambitious goal.

The EU-funded FET project Symbitron has recently presented its results, as it develops a safe, personalised, wearable exoskeleton that is inspired by how the body itself works. “Our main aim was to enable patients with spinal cord injuries to walk without additional assistance, by working with their remaining motor functions,″ says project coordinator Professor Herman van der Kooij.

To test the safety and functionality of their solution, the Symbitron consortium created a training environment and training protocols for patients and their doctors.

“Clinical tests showed that hardware and software could be adjusted to the specific characteristics of these subjects providing a proof of the feasibility of our unique approach,″ explains Prof. van der Kooij.

The results were highly positive. Specifically, all subjects who had been mobile before the trial seemed to improve their walking speed and/or balance during training. Of the completely immobile patients, two even started walking again. Psychometric analysis also confirmed that patients were satisfied with the solution and results, and showed high motivation for further progress.

 

For more information see:

CORDIS Result In Brief: An exoskeleton for paraplegics

EU blogpost by PhD Researcher Iolanda Pisotta: Engineers and clinicians building wearable robots together