Cutting-Edge Robotic Exoskeleton Allows Wheelchair-Bound to Stand and Walk

Cutting edge medicine: robotic suit enables wearers to walk again.

ByABC News via logo
February 3, 2010, 6:31 PM

Feb. 4, 2010— -- When Floyd Morrow's spinal cord was severed in 2006, doctors told him he would never take another step, but a revolutionary new device will give Morrow and other paraplegics the chance to walk again.

"It's the greatest thing," Morrow, 62, said, speaking about the first time he donned the device called ReWalk, a motorized exoskeleton that enables wheelchair users with permanent lower limb disabilities to stand, walk and even climb stairs.

"Just to be able to push a button and it's like, 'OK, let's go.' Go cruising down the hallway, oh, it's awesome," said Morrow, who lives just outside of Atlantic City, N.J.

He never imagined he'd be able to walk again after the 2006 boating accident that paralyzed him for good.

"I couldn't see or speak, but I heard the break in my back," he said.

He is among 14 people currently enrolled in the U.S. clinical trials of ReWalk, which is made by Argo Medical Technologies in Israel.

ReWalk is a lightweight device comprising an upper body harness, backpack and full leg supports.

The supports have motorized hips and knees. Advance motion sensors placed in the shoulder and connected to a backpack computer detect subtle changes in gravity, telling the device when a step needs to be taken. Users control the movement of the leg supports with the help of crutches, so wearers must have the use of their upper bodies in order to control the device.

A battery pack provides three hours of continuous movement.

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves ReWalk, researchers said they hope it will be available to the public by the end of 2010. It's not yet known how much it will cost.