Kathryn Lindsay
September 05, 2015 10:09 am

It was one small step for Mark Pollock, but one big step for the future of medical science and engineering. Thirty-nine-year-old Pollock fell from a second story window in 2010, rendering him paralyzed from the waist down. But his story doesn’t end there. Thanks to researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles, Pollock was fitted with a robotic exoskeleton that allows him to take steps — something doctors never thought he would do again.

What’s amazing about this discovery is that it’s not just a machine moving Pollock, it’s a machine that stimulates his spinal cord to allow him to have some independent control over his limbs.

Before he was fitted with the device, Pollock was first treated with electrical currents in an effort to reactivate neurons. This allowed him to undergo physical therapy, during which he reported feeling tingling, tension and even sweat on his legs.

Then, they moved on to the exoskeleton. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a mechanical brace for Pollock’s legs that aid his movement, allowing him to walk for the first time in five years. The success of this experiment bodes well for the future. V. Reggie Edgerton, integrative biology UCLA professor, explains:

The researcher’s findings were presented at the 47th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and are a marker of just how far we’ve come with technology, and a promise for just how much farther we’ll go.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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