MS Center studies new technology to help people walk

September 15, 2016 James D. Bowen, M.D.

The Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish has begun an exciting study in our gym to see if new technology can help people with walking disabilities regain or improve their mobility.

The technology is a device that looks a lot like a robot. It’s a hybrid assistive limb, known as HAL, that works by enhancing a person’s neurotransmission to the legs instead of using a “mechanical robot” to move the legs.

Electrodes placed on muscles in the legs signal when a person is trying to walk and the HAL assists in the movement. This allows a very weak muscle signal to be translated into a much stronger movement through the device.

Participants in the study will use this technology to exercise their neurological circuits. Our goal is to determine whether therapy with the HAL strengthens those circuits, thereby improving a person’s mobility when they are not using the device.

The MS Center is using a device developed by the Japan-based company Cyberdyne. You can learn more about the HAL and see an image of it on Cyberdyne’s website.

This is a small preliminary study, but we hope that this technology will prove effective in helping people with MS get around better.

As with any study, there are entry requirements for participants and a limited number of spots. People with MS should talk to their providers directly if they have questions about being considered for the study.

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