An intelligent suit is being designed with the hope that it will significantly improve rehabilitation in patients after a serious spinal cord injury. The AI-supported solution will be developed over the next three years by researchers from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) working in collaboration with Heidelberg University and Heidelberg University Hospital. It combines electrical simulation of muscles with support for movement using artificial tendons, and reacts to patients’ intended movements.
Injuries to the spinal cord as a result of traffic or sport accidents, tumor operations or infections have a dramatic impact on the lives of those affected. Daily activities like eating and drinking, getting dressed or personal hygiene are no longer possible, or if so, then only to a very limited extent.
However, injuries like this are not necessarily irreversible. For example, if the long nerve fibers are not separated entirely from the brain, some remnants of motor control remain. “In such cases there is a good chance of regaining at least some mobility,” explains Prof. Dr. Claudio Castellini from the Chair of Assistive Intelligent Robotics at FAU. “The potential for regeneration is particularly high in the first twelve months after the injury, when new neurons can be generated and new networks created.”