MEDICAL researchers in China and Denmark have designed a wearable robotic lower-leg prosthesis that mimics natural movement of the knee, according to a study published in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments.
The research team from China’s Beihang University and Aalborg University in Denmark were seeking to improve on existing robotic limb designs, which are used for rehabilitation of stroke and spinal cord injury patients. Robotic prosthetics are a type of exoskeleton, worn on the affected limb and assisting movement with mechanical power. They can be used to help strengthen muscles, or even help patients regain the ability to walk.
The problem with existing leg exoskeletons, according to the study, is that the movement of the knee is limited, which makes the device less effective and comfortable for the patient.
“Our new design features a parallel knee joint to improve the bio-imitability and adaptability of the exoskeleton,” explained Dr. Chen Weihai, a professor at Beihang University’s School of Automation Science and Electrical Engineering.
The advance of the prototype developed by the Chinese and Danish researchers is that the knee more closely mimics natural knee movement. It does this by allowing the knee’s center of rotation to move, and by the use of a parallel mechanism consisting of several skeletal “muscles” around the joint to allow more flexibility and range of motion.
The prototype is currently undergoing testing with various subjects, and the team is working on constructing other units to be able to conduct expanded clinical trials, the researchers said.