Medical advances: bionic breakthroughs

FRESNO, Calif.

It's a bionic breakthrough that even left the kids on glee speechless! Robotic legs that allow those who never thought they would walk again to take another step. Although it seems like Sci-Fi, it's now reality for Jean Altomari.

"It feels like I'm standing up on my own power," Jean Altomari told Action News.

A Cancun dream vacation turned into a nightmare when a jeep accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Before a motorized exoskeleton, called ReWalk, Jean had not taken a step in two years.

"It feels like I am leaning forward. I'm deciding I'm going to stand up, and I just stand up," jean said.

"It has motors that basically move your hips and knees and allows an individual who is paralyzed to walk," Dr. Alberto Esquenazi, a director of the Moss Rehab Gait & Motion Analysis Laboratory in Pennsylvania, and principle investigator for ReWalk trial, said.

Patients wear a backpack with a small computer, and use a remote control on a wrist device to tell the suit to stand up, it receives feedback from motion sensors at the joints. The result has Jean moving on her own but for some of the 118,000 people in the U.S. who can't use their arms or legs, even moving their wheelchair can be an insurmountable task.

A diving accident left Jason Disanto paralyzed from the shoulders down. Now he's one of the first to test drive new technology that could change his world.

"This is the only technology as far as we know that can help a potential user to access computers, drive wheelchairs control their environment all with one single device," Maysam Ghovanloo, Ph.D.,an associate professor at Georgia Institute of Technology.

It's called tongue drive, an operating system that works through a tiny magnet, piercing the tongue by touching different teeth the user sends commands through the headset to be processed by a smart phone.

"So to initiate for example, a right command, they would hit their tooth over on the right side, just a simple tap of the tongue," Erica Sutton, MA, the study coordinator at Shepherd Center,explained.

"It's a big deal for anybody who's bound in a wheelchair because it'll give you more independence," Jason Disanto said.

And that's what both of these game changers are all about.

"It's real exciting," Jason said.

The ReWalk is FDA approved for use in rehabilitation centers and is expected to be ready for consumers in 2012. A clinical trial is now underway for patients to test out tongue drive in their homes.


Judy Horwitz
Senior Communications Specialist
Albert Einstein Healthcare Network
(215) 456-6767

Jane Sanders
Public Relations
Shepherd Center

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