It’s not the first time Mark Pollock tested Ekso Bionics’ exoskeleton, but he can now move more naturally, as you can see in the video below the fold. That’s because Pollock, who’s been paralyzed from the waist down since 2010, gained back some control of and feelings in his legs, thanks to a process known as “transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation.” A team of UCLA scientists attached electrodes on his skin and stimulated his spine with jolts of electricity. After the process, Pollock’s legs tingled when exercising, regained enough voluntary control — he can raise them and flex his knees now — and even started sweating, which hasn’t happened since his accident. As a result, his legs and the battery-operated exoskeleton now work in tandem to give him a more natural gait.
While he might never be able to walk unassisted, the result of his five-day training in UCLA sounds promising: he successfully walked thousands of steps. According to one of the researchers, Reggie Edgerton, restoring at least some of paraplegics’/quadriplegics’ ability to move on their own is essential despite advances in exoskeleton technologies, as it “will greatly improve their overall health and quality of life.”