Tests are being conducted on a robotic exoskeleton device at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in California. The device, called eLEGS, can be worn by a spinal cord injury patient, and allows the person to walk by taking steps for the patient. The device has been designed by Berkeley Bionics, and one patient has already completed the entire trial. A second woman is currently undergoing the trial, and researchers are looking at how long patients are able to stand up and walk around using exoskeleton devices. The device must be worn by the patient, who can use crutches with special sensors to signify which direction he wants to move in. For instance, when the person moves the left crutch, the motor moves the left leg forward. The trials are being conducted on a device that can fit people who are between 5′2″ and 6′2″ tall. A home version of the device is already being developed. Once the trials are complete, the hospital version will be shipped to rehabilitation centers around the country. The device weighs about 120 pounds, but has the power to support its own weight. As a maritime lawyer, I follow developments in the field of research into catastrophic injury treatment, including research into spinal cord injuries, very closely. This week, researchers in Kentucky unveiled a device that uses electrodes to stimulate nerves in a damaged spine, thereby allowing neurons in the spine to communicate with those in the leg, to allow persons to move the lower limbs easily. One of the biggest factors in spinal cord injuries around the country is slip and fall accidents. Maritime workers are at a high risk of such accidents on any kind of vessel. I would like to see more money being invested in developing aids for these patients and ultimately, a complete cure for spinal cord injury.
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