Researchers are currently working on an exciting project that could one day help people with spinal cord injuries to walk again. The project involves creating a prosthetic exoskeleton that would be worn by a paralyzed person. The exoskeleton is being created through a mix of neuroscience and engineering. The suit will work by intercepting the thoughts of a person with a spinal cord injury and helping their body to act on those thoughts.
A person does not lose their ability to direct the body to take different actions — such as walking — it is just that the signals cannot cross the spinal cord injury in order to get to the brain. Many of these thoughts just become lost. The suit would use these thoughts to help a person’s body complete an action.
The suit could help a person who has been paralyzed by a car accident, fall, assault or other cause again do the little things that they thought they would never do again like dress themselves or hug their loved ones.
The suit is currently being tested on monkeys and is a long way off from being ready for humans, but the scientists involved are ambitious. They actually are hoping to have a body suit ready for a quadriplegic boy by 2014 so that he can walk across the soccer field at the opening ceremonies of the World Cup that year in Brazil.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Body suit may soon enable the paralyzed to walk,” Melissa Healy, Oct. 6, 2011