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Kessler Foundation Identifies Six Participants to Test Ekso

WEST ORANGE, N.J., Oct. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Kessler Foundation, in collaboration with Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, announced that it has selected six participants for the Ekso exoskeleton investigational studies, which will commence October 17.  Made by Ekso Bionics, Ekso is a wearable, robotic, battery-powered exoskeleton that enables wheelchair users to stand and walk.

Ekso Bionics announced the rebranding of both its company name and product line on October 13, 2011. It was formerly known as Berkeley Bionics and the Ekso exoskeleton was formerly known as eLEGS.

Kessler is one of ten centers across the U.S. to partner with Ekso Bionics to develop protocols and examine how the overall health of individuals with spinal cord injury improves with Ekso. During the week of October 17th, representatives from Ekso Bionics will train staff and research participants at Kessler on using the exoskeleton. Gail Forrest, PhD, Interim Director of Human Performance and Movement Analysis Research at Kessler Foundation, and Steven Kirshblum, MD, Medical Director and Director of Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, will lead a collaborative team for the investigational study. Kessler will acquire its own Ekso for research and clinical use in January 2012.

"This technology provides hope that individuals with paralysis and lower extremity weakness can walk," said Dr. Kirshblum. "Through our collaboration, we bring innovative technology directly to patient care when conducting clinical trials."

Kessler is also one of seven centers in the Christopher and Dana Reeve NeuroRecovery Network, a program designed to retrain the nervous system through intensive repetitive locomotor training—during which the individual is harnessed over a treadmill as therapists move the legs in a walking motion. Other avenues of exploration for Kessler include Hocoma's LokomatPro V6 and epidural stimulation. The LokomatPro V6 uses robotic technology to move the individual's legs in a walking motion over a treadmill and encourages interaction. With adjustable features and an allowance for hip movement, it is meant to simulate the most natural gait possible. In addition, Kessler is partnering with the University of Louisville to investigate epidural stimulation, in which a chip is implanted to deliver an electrical current through the spine to trigger walking.

"By studying various forms of treatment for paralysis, we identify what course of action works best for each individual," said Dr. Forrest. "Robotic technology adds another dimension to rehabilitation by simulating a normal walking pattern. We've seen that repetitive motion retrains the nervous system so that individuals, in some cases, redevelop walking patterns, but regular movement also prevents secondary complications of paralysis, including cardiac and lung weakness, poor bone density and pressure ulcers. Quality of life drastically improves."

While Ekso is only used in rehabilitation settings, it's targeted for home and community use in 2013. To kick off the start of trials, Amanda Boxtel—an ambassador for Ekso Bionics—will demonstrate Ekso live at Kessler Foundation's 10th Annual Stroll 'N Roll at Branch Brook Park. Boxtel was paralyzed in a skiing accident in 1992 but has been learning to walk independently with Ekso for one year. The new participants will have the opportunity to see the possibilities with the Ekso.

About Kessler Foundation 

Kessler Foundation is the largest public charity in the field of disability.  Kessler Foundation Research Center advances care through rehabilitation research in its seven specialized laboratories under the leadership of noted research directors. Research 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 grant making 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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About Kessler Institute 

Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, a division of Select Medical, provides comprehensive care and specialized treatment to address the complex needs of individuals with spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, amputation, neurological diseases, cardiac recovery and orthopedic/musculoskeletal conditions. Kessler is one of only seven federally-designated Model Systems in the nation for the treatment and research of both traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Ranked as one of the top two rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and the best in the East by U.S. News & World Report, Kessler has three hospital campuses in West Orange, Saddle Brook and Chester, N.J., and more than 80 outpatient centers throughout the state. 

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About Ekso Bionics

Ekso Bionics ( – formerly known as Berkeley Bionics, based in Berkeley, CA, and founded in 2005, develops and manufactures wearable robots – or exoskeletons - for military, civilian and medical uses that augment strength, endurance, mobility and injury prevention. 

SOURCE Kessler Foundation
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