Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) will use exoskeletons to help them with physical activity as part of a new UK study.
MS damages nerves in the body, making it harder to do everyday things like walk, talk, eat and think. According to the MS Society, research suggests people with the condition should do moderate exercise for 30 minutes, three times a week. But many find this difficult due to the symptoms. The MS Society is raising £40,000 to support the exoskeleton research, which could significantly improve mobility for MS patients.
“We all know how important exercise is,” said research lead Dr Siva Nair, from Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital. “A lack of it can cause heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression. So we need to find a way to make it easier for people with advanced MS to take part in physical activity. Robotics is the natural step forward. By embracing this technology we are giving people who can’t walk the chance to exercise like everyone else.
“We understand it’s not every day you see someone in a robot suit, and society might need to adjust to such a weird and wonderful sight. That’s why we’re also going to be observing the personal implications of keeping fit in this way – including whether the person wearing the exoskeleton feels it’s an accepted way to exercise.”
Over 100,000 people in the UK are living with MS. According to the MS Society, the exoskeleton study is part of a £1.3 million investment this year spread across 13 different projects covering areas ranging from finding new treatments to improving care and services.
“For many people living with progressive forms of the condition, there are no treatments available,” said Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society.
“We believe we can stop MS, but until then we urgently need to find new and innovative ways to help everyone with the condition live as well as they are able.”