Exoskeleton that made Mara Gabrilli walk arrives at SUS for US$ 200,000 – 02/06/2023

Linked to the SUS (Unified Health System) and managed by the São Paulo Health Department, the Lucy Montoro Network will start using two exoskeletons. Acquired for US$ 200,000 (a value equivalent today to just over R$ 1 million, in direct conversion), the equipment allows patients with various motor disabilities to walk, crouch, move sideways and even climb steps.

The models are of the same type that went viral when used by Senator Mara Gabrilli (PSD-SP), who became quadriplegic in 1994 after suffering a car accident.

The technology that will arrive by the end of June at the institution specialized in advanced rehabilitation treatments in São Paulo was developed by the French startup Wandercraft.

A parliamentarian spoke to To lean about how wearing the exoskeleton made her relive memories and took her “back to the past when she ran marathons”.

It’s as if my body recognized the movement and was ready to walk again after 28 years of the accident that left me quadriplegic. The feeling can be summed up in one word: freedom. Mara Gabrilli, senator (PSD-SP)

The experience made Gabrilli reflect on his condition and how it connects with the way we see ourselves. Human history, including from an evolutionary point of view, is directly related to the possibility of standing up, she says. Not by chance, humans are bipedal, she adds.

She welcomes the idea that the state government across Brazil can follow São Paulo’s lead and implement exoskeletons.

When we invest in health and quality of life among the population, we are also taking care of public coffers. Investing in health technology ensures sustainability for our SUS. It’s looking at health as a whole. Public managers with this vision will work to have exoskeletons in their rehabilitation centers Mara Gabrilli

The “magic” behind exoskeleton

The models that will arrive in Brazil are called Atalante. With a projected lifespan of five years, the devices can be used by patients weighing up to 90 kg. They work like this:

  • Robotic suits, exoskeletons are attached to the human body to reactivate and help with movement;
  • When “wearing” the exoskeleton, the user dispenses with walkers and has a balance control system that provides greater stability. Even if it leans over, the patient will not fall because the robot maintains its balance;
  • The equipment is programmed to function based on the patient’s goals;
  • The technology uses the body’s own strength to allow the patient to walk; the model does not work with capturing air impulses, since there are no electrodes connected to the brain.
  • It can be used by people with spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, among other diseases or conditions that impact movements.

It is a changeable structure customized to the patient based on height and leg length, with 12 degrees of freedom and variable assist motorized movement. Firmware and software algorithms are smart technology that create correct kinematic or regulatory gait for patients based on your controls Gary Viles, Vice President of Commercial Operations for Wandercraft in the Americas

Can it become personal use equipment?

Custom settings for each patient are made on the tablet with the “WanderTouch” system. In it, it is possible to check the number of steps, the times they squatted, time of use and even which leg needed more assistance.

It took more than ten years to get where we are and six years to get to the point where we can safely lift the first patient from a sitting position. Today’s version took an enormous amount of engineering, testing, validation and clinical studies to prove feasibility and usability. Gary Viles

The company’s technology is not available on a large scale. Linamara Rizzo Battistella, professor at USP and creator of the Lucy Montoro Network, points out that the desire is to allow patients to take exoskeletons home in the future, in the same way as happens today with motorized wheelchairs.

“For the time being, it is a training technology for the development of clinical improvement. But in the future it will be equipment for personal use”, says Battistella.

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Mara Gabrilli

Image: Disclosure

Indicated for adult patients, the version of the exoskeleton used weighs between 8 kg and 9 kg. “There are significantly more adult patients with neurological injuries and disease than pediatric patients,” said Wandercraft’s Viles.

The future: production in Brazil?

For Linamara Rizzo Battistella, the costs —US$ 200,000 for the two exoskeletons— are high because they are tools that are still working hard in research and in few units.

Effectively this will not be the final value. It was something I put as a point of honor with the manufacturer. I can’t deny the knowledge that went into the equipment, but we need to see how to bring this product at an adjustable cost to the public system. Linamara Rizzo Battistella, creator of the Lucy Montoro Network

For the professor, a competitive market is essential for the field of research. So much so that she proposes that production be done in Brazil to make the tool cheaper and more accessible. “We have the technology and material for that.”

see them [a Wandercraft] we don’t want to produce in Brazil, we’re going to make our own. We produce planes, aren’t we going to produce exoskeletons? They made a model that is wonderful, but whoever made the first refrigerator couldn’t help but that another vendor did too. it was the same with Henry Ford and cars Linamara Rizzo Battistella

The doctor also points out that the transit of the exoskeleton requires training, which depends on adaptation time, but that, in the case of the Lucy Montoro Network, the professionals are already prepared to operate the French technology.

Wandercraft is currently working on a personal version that can be taken home. In addition to the United States, France and now Brazil, the company intends to expand its market and take the exoskeleton to Germany and Spain.

national exoskeleton

The news of having a working exoskeleton in Brazil might sound familiar to some people. This is because in 2014 such technology was used by Juliano Pinto, with lower limb paralysis, to kick off a ball at the opening of the World Cup that year, held in the country.

The team led by Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, author of the “Andar de Novo” project, took 17 months to get to the kick. In an interview at the time, he explained that the exoskeleton worked under the command of an operator’s brain activity, from electrodes glued to the user’s head.

The objective was to perform natural and fluid movements capable of producing the sensation in patients that they were with their own legs. The tests were carried out at AACD, a non-profit organization dedicated to orthopedics and rehabilitation work.

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