New study eyes use of exoskeletons for multiple sclerosis sufferers

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There is no cure for MS, but one study here in Houston hopes to help sufferers regain both their confidence and mobility. (KTRK)

It's estimated two million people across the globe are afflicted with multiple sclerosis. There is no cure for this disease, but one study here in Houston hopes to use robotic exoskeleton technology to help sufferers regain both their confidence and mobility.

Kelly Davis is working to regain the strength she needs to walk on her own. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago.

"That started with lower back pain, then I started seeing double and I would drive to work covering one eye," Davis said.

And this chronic disease has been taking away her mobility ever since.

Recently, Davis took part in an ongoing study at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital on the effectiveness of wearable exoskeletons to assist MS sufferers with walking.

"So we are hoping through the use of the exoskeleton, we will be able to train not only the muscles but the person's overall physiologic makeup to improve their endurance so they can increase their physical activity," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, chief medical officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital.

At the UTHealth Neurorecovery Research Center located at TIRR, doctors have been studying different ways to use exoskeletons. Dr. James Chang is the lead researcher in the MS study.

"In this particular project want to see if we can use the current technology, which designed for spinal cord injuries, to apply in this population," Dr. Chang said.

Right now, the wearable exoskeleton is used only for rehabilitative therapy at TIRR, but one day MS patients like Davis may be able to take the device home.

"It's one of the best things I've ever done. Exo is really incredible. He's helped my balance tremendously," she said.

Kelly says her experience with the exoskeleton makes her hopeful about the future with plans to participate in future studies.
"It's amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it," Davis said.

The study, which is funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is still recruiting for volunteers. For more information, visit or the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital website.

Related Topics:
healthmultiple sclerosisHouston
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