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Kessler Foundation tests upgraded Ekso to advance study of mobility in spinal cord injury

dr forest

2012-08-14 15:45:17 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Gail Forrest, PhD, leads Kessler Foundation research team investigating Ekso’s new capabilities for autonomous use by people with spinal cord injuries

West Orange, NJ. August 14, 2012. Kessler Foundation has begun testing the upgraded Ekso in individuals unable to walk due to spinal cord injury. Ekso, a wearable, battery-powered robotic exoskeletal device, has been undergoing clinical investigation at Kessler since October 2011, when the research team received the second commercial unit distributed by Ekso Bionics. Gail Forrest, PhD, assistant director of Human Performance and Engineering Research, directs Ekso research at the Foundation, in collaboration with Steven Kirshblum, MD, medical director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

The upgrade adds important functions, according to Ekso Bionics, which announced the availability of the upgraded Ekso on August 11. Until now, walking in Ekso meant being accompanied by two physical therapists, one of whom triggered each step. Now individuals can gradually progress to independent walking in Ekso by advancing through three levels that enable progressively greater user control. Of interest to researchers is another new feature called EksoPulse. EksoPulse collects usage data for each user and archives it on a secure cloud server, enabling documentation of individuals’ progress.  

“These upgrades have important implications for clinicians and researchers,” noted Dr. Forrest. “Automating data collection and enabling greater independence during therapy are improvements that will advance the pace of our research while enabling greater progress for study participants with spinal cord injury.” Data collection also helps provide the documentation necessary to prove the efficacy of Ekso therapy for insurers that reimburse for rehabilitative care.   

Dr. Forrest’s team also collects key data on the impact of Ekso training on physiological parameters (eg, cardiovascular, muscle activity), quality of life, and chronic pain.  “Individuals with spinal cord injury face years of secondary complications, such as pain, pressure ulcers, depression, bowel and bladder dysfunction, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease,” noted Dr. Forrest.  “That’s why we’re looking beyond the abilities to stand and walk to the potential long-term effects of these activities on health and well being.”

About Gail Forrest, PhD

Dr. Forrest conducts mobility research at Kessler Foundation, where in addition to Ekso, she studies the effectiveness of  activity based therapies for recovery of function including electrical stimulation, and the LokomatPro v6 (Hocoma), a robotic treadmill training device. Dr Forrest is the Kessler site director of the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), a network of six specialized rehabilitation centers that translates evidence-based, activity-dependent therapeutic interventions into the clinic and evaluates them using comprehensive standardized outcomes. Dr. Forrest is assistant director of Human Performance & Engineering Research, which is headed by Guang Yue, PhD. She also holds a faculty appointment at the department of physical medicine & rehabilitation at the University of Medicine & Dentistry-New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey.

Dr. Forrest is assistant director of Human Performance & Engineering Research, which is headed by Guang Yue, PhD. She also holds a faculty appointment at the department of physical medicine & rehabilitation at the University of Medicine & Dentistry-New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey.

About Kessler Foundation                                                            

Kessler Foundation is one of the largest public charities in the field of disability. Kessler Foundation Research Center focuses on improving function and quality of life for persons with injuries of the spinal cord and brain, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic neurological conditions. Kessler Foundation Program Center fosters new approaches to the persistently high rates of unemployment among people disabled by injury or disease. Targeted grantmaking funds promising programs across the nation. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, people recovering from catastrophic injuries and stroke, and young adults striving for independence are among the thousands of people finding jobs and training for careers as a result of the commitment of Kessler Foundation.

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 Carolann Murphy, PA 973-324-8382,

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Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 08/14/2012 - 15:45