Best Life: Robotic exoskeleton helps multiple sclerosis patients walk again

Updated: May. 1, 2020 at 7:33 AM CDT
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Cleveland, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Multiple sclerosis, it’s an unpredictable disease that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body, slowly robbing many patients of their ability to walk, causing tremors, muscle paralysis numbness, and weakness. Now, a robotic exoskeleton may help retrain the brain and keep MS patients up and walking.

Four days a week, this is where you will find Kathy Miska. “I have balance, I have buoyancy,” Miska said.

In the water, Miska can forget about her MS, a disease that claimed the life of her sister.

Miska told Ivanhoe, “Her last ten years of her life, she was a total vegetable. She couldn’t control her eyes. She couldn’t wiggle a finger.”

Now that same disease is slowly attacking Miska.

“It feels like you're giving up a little bit of your independence,” she described.

In a move to regain her mobility, she strapped on a robotic exoskeleton to retrain her brain and her body to walk normally again.

“I was always swinging my leg around to walk because I can't pick it up,” Miska explained.

During the eight-week study, patients fitted into the battery-powered suit walked the halls three times a week for about 30 minutes.

“You know, you do that repetitive motion so many times over and over again that eventually it gets instilled in your brain,” she said.

“Really the idea is to use the device to enhance the rehab so that when people go back home and do the exercise routine on their daily activities, their ability to perform these exercises or these activities is enhanced without using the device,” Francois Bethoux, MD, chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation department at the Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

It worked for Miska.

She told Ivanhoe, “I'd be screaming to my husband, oh my god, my leg’s working, my leg’s working. It gives you so much hope when that's happening.”

And that is really the ultimate goal.

Powered exoskeletons are currently approved by the FDA for the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injury and post-stroke paralysis on one side of the body. Dr. Bethoux says future research will assess neuro pathways from the brain to the body known as brain plasticity.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Ken Ashe, Editor.

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