“Ekso” is the name of the exoskeleton which will be living on a daily basis with a group of between 50 and 75 people suffering from multiple sclerosis, as part of a clinical survey led by ADEMBI (Bizkaia Multiple Sclerosis Association) and funded by BBK.

This clinical study is unique in that it involves researchers from the University of the Basque Country, Biocruces Bizkaia, Adembi and the Achucarro Basque Centre for Neuroscience, who for the first time will be gauging the use of a portable exoskeleton for MS patients. The experts are optimistic, and if the initial prognosis is confirmed, this rehab programme will significantly improve the walking speed and balance of patients. The number of falls and weariness can be reduced, and significant clinical improvements can be made in terms of health and standards of living if the expectations are met.

The main purpose of the project is to combine an exoskeleton with conventional physiotherapy, to ascertain whether this produces any advantages. If the hypothesis is confirmed, ADEMBI considers that 75% of those using its rehab services, currently 200 people, will be able to make use of the new scheme. The results may be extrapolated globally, and change the way in which MS rehab procedures are approached.
The benefits of working with an exoskeleton are obvious, and experts are expecting major clinical improvements in terms of patients’ speed and balance. It should considerably reduce the number of falls, and improve standards of living in terms of health.

Three phases

The research project will be ongoing for a year, and a group of between 50 and 70 people was chosen to monitor a specific capacitation programme in three phases, for the purposes of measuring developments in participants’ functional and cognitive capacities, among other variables. In fact, this is a pioneer project, because the effect of this technology had hitherto never been studied in such a large group over such a long period.

Eksobionics is a portable exoskeleton, marketed for the purposes of creating pathological training programmes. Its effects were positive in patients diagnosed with bone marrow lesions and strokes, although there is still very little evidence of effectiveness for MS.

Before embarking on clinical trials, ADEMBI carried out a test to ascertain whether the exoskeleton could be used to help those attending its centre with their walking. The initial contacts proved an extremely pleasant experience for all those taking part in the initial pilot test.