Tuesday, May 27, 2014


There are many approaches to solving disability problems in human beings. In the case of multiple sclerosis, for example, here are just a few of the strategies currently being employed:
  • Many researchers are pursuing pharmacological solutions such as disease modifying treatments focused on the body’s immune response.
  • Some researchers are considering drugs that will have neuroprotective qualities, shielding the patient’s central nervous system from attack.
  • Others are focusing on developing stem cell treatments that will either rebuild the immune system or repair damage done to the central nervous system of patients with multiple sclerosis.
  • Still others are concentrating their efforts on identifying the root cause of the disease, presuming that this knowledge can facilitate a cure.
But this blog post focuses on those who are pursuing the design and manufacture of electromechanical aids for disabled people – bionics. The EKSO exoskeleton  is getting closer to commercial readiness every day. In the world of prosthetic limbs, DEKA Research and Development, who developed my iBot mobility system, recently received FDA approval for their Luke Arm. I was privileged to see the arm and discuss it with the manager of engineering during our visit to the DEKA facility late last year.

I urge you to watch the YouTube video below. It's a TED talk delivered by Hugh Herr, a double amputee and developer of bionic systems at MIT. He is the personification of “physician, heal thyself.”

Herr looks at disability in a novel way.
“Basic levels of physiological function should be a part of our human rights. Every person should have the right to live life without disability if they so choose -- the right to live life without severe depression; the right to see a loved one in the case of seeing impaired; or the right to walk or to dance, in the case of limb paralysis or limb amputation. As a society, we can achieve these human rights if we accept the proposition that humans are not disabled. A person can never be broken. Our built environment, our technologies, are broken and disabled. We the people need not accept our limitations, but can transcend disability through technological innovation. Indeed, through fundamental advances in bionics in this century, we will set the technological foundation for an enhanced human experience, and we will end disability.”
Whether you are a healthy or disabled person you’ll enjoy this entire 19 minute video. But if you just want to hit the emotional highlights, watch the story of a woman who receives new bionic legs at the 12:10 point of the video. Then watch the concluding story of a woman who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, beginning at 14:50. Bring a box of tissues.

If you are reading this in an email, click here to access the video.

1 comment:

  1. while drugs and machines will probably always be involved, there are a few diets - wahls and swank for instance - that are gathering good data as treatment protocols for MS. one can graduate med school with only 20 hours of nutrition education. my first neuro, when i asked him about swank, told me to east whatever i wanted, that he had no nutritional advice to offer. there is more available to us than just drugs, ways we can take more control of our health.