It's not just nuclear-powered super soldiers who will use exoskeletons -- it can also be used to help those with physical disabilities. The Kessler Foundation grabbed one of Ekso Bionics' Ekso units and gave six people with severe spinal injuries, including a tetraplegic, the chance to walk. It's part of a trial study to examine the effects of walking for wheelchair-users, to see if it's better for their overall health or if it could contribute to their rehabilitation. A wider study will begin early next year with the hope of expanding use of the gear to domestic situations in the future. After the break we've got video of the people walking for the first time since their injuries and it's hard not to find yourself feeling a little emotional at the sight of it.

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Researchers encouraged by observations of 6 patients with traumatic spinal cord injury

Exoskeletal device tested in six patients with traumatic spinal cord injury

Results of pilot testing encourage Kessler Foundation researchers

West Orange, NJ. December 14, 2011. Monitored by scientists at Kessler Foundation, six people with traumatic spinal cord injuries tested Ekso, the robotic exoskeleton from Ekso Bionics that enables wheelchair users to stand and walk. The six participated in one week of preliminary testing in October 2011. Five patients have paraplegia and one has quadriplegia; they ranged in age from 27 to 45 and had durations of injury from 4 months to 2 years. In early 2012, the research team, headed by senior research scientist Gail Forrest, PhD, will commence a clinical study in collaboration with Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

The week of preliminary testing provided key information that will guide protocol development, including selection criteria for individuals with spinal cord injury. "We will look at the effects of standing and walking for people with paralysis due to spinal cord injury," said Dr. Forrest. "Whether there are physiologic changes taking place, and what those changes mean in terms of functional improvement." While the study at Kessler will focus on the benefits of Ekso in rehabilitation settings, Ekso Bionics also plans to explore the potential for home and community use.

Kessler is one of ten US partners of Ekso Bionics that are developing clinical protocols aimed at measuring gains in overall health among users of individuals using Ekso.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation is the largest public charity in the field of disability. Kessler Foundation Research Center advances care through rehabilitation research in its six specialized laboratories under the leadership of noted research directors. Research focuses on improving function and quality of life for persons with injuries of the spinal cord and brain, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic neurological conditions. Kessler Foundation Program Center fosters new approaches to the persistently high rates of unemployment among people disabled by injury or disease. Targeted grant making funds promising programs across the nation. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, people recovering from catastrophic injuries and stroke, and young adults striving for independence are among the thousands of people finding jobs and training for careers as a result of the commitment of Kessler Foundation.