ReWalk, the pioneering Israeli company that makes a robotic exoskeleton to get people with spinal-cord injuries on their feet, premiered the prototype for a soft suit intended to assist stroke survivors and patients suffering from multiple sclerosis regain mobility.
There are an estimated 3 million stroke survivors with lower-limb disability in the United States alone.
ReWalk’s flagship product, ReWalk 6.0, includes robotic leg attachments that can weigh up to 50 pounds. The new suit – called “Restore” – uses similar technologies and mechanics, but is much lighter and simpler.
Restore looks like the kind of harness construction workers wear when scaling a building. There’s a waist belt fitted with a motor and battery. Flexible cables run from the motor to the ankles, leg braces and shoe sensors and are attached through fabric-based designs (hence the description of Restore as a “soft suit”).
“Exoskeletons are now a commercially available, disruptive technology that has changed the lives of many individuals in the paraplegic community,” said ReWalk CEO Larry Jasinski. “The ongoing research at the Wyss Institute on soft exosuits adds a new dimension to exoskeletons that can potentially meet the needs of individuals that have had a stroke, as well as for those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or people who have limitations in walking.”
ReWalk is collaborating on the Restore design with Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Jasinski expects it will be more affordable than ReWalk 6.0, which has a list price of $77,000.
A new Wyss Institute study published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine found that using the Restore prototype provided immediate improvements in walking capability for nine ambulatory patients following a stroke.
“We are thrilled with the progress of the Restore system, which will provide life-changing technology to a whole new class of patients facing mobility issues,” said Jasinski. “With the prototype finished, we are eager to begin clinical studies and pursue regulatory approvals so that these systems can be provided to millions of patients who can benefit from access to the device.”
ReWalk was founded in 2001 and has offices in Yokne’am (Israel), the United States and Germany.