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Science Fiction meets reality

In May last year, the company Cyberdyne announced they would be setting up in the BioMedicine Science Centre Bochum, and at the same time a pilot project started at the Bergmannsheil clinic where HAL® suits are being adapted for European patients and further research is to be carried out. In the middle of September the Centre for Neurorobotic Movement Training was officially opened at the Bergmannsheil Clinic attracting a lot of media attention.

Prof. Yoshiyuki Sankai

Successful German-Japanese high-tech cooperation

In the presence of the NRW Minister for Economic Affairs Garrelt Duin and Lord Mayor Dr. Ottilie Scholz, Europe’s first Centre for Neurorobotic Movement Training using HAL® systems was opened. “This is our Apollo mission”, said Theodor Bülhoff from the Statutory Accident Insurance Association for Raw Materials and the Chemical Industry (BG RCI).

The HAL® robot suit provides new rehabilitation opportunities particularly for paraplegic patients. HAL® stands for Hybrid Assistive Limb® and it is the first robot suit in the world which supports and strengthens the movements of limbs efficiently. It stands out from other systems above all because it taps into the nerve induced impulses of the wearer in order to set itself and therefore the person in motion. The system was developed in Japan by Prof. Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai who came especially to Bochum for the opening of the centre. He has been working on this project for more than 20 years now. In Japan there are already 300 HAL® suits in use in 135 different institutions.

Prof. Schildhauer demonstrated the therapy model with one of his patients

Prof.Dr. Thomas Schildhauer, Medical Director of the Bergmannsheil University Clinic has already carried out the first individual applications to adapt the suit to European sizes. He is delighted with the results so far: “We observed that training with the suit leads to considerable increases in mobility for the paralyzed patients, there is intensified muscle development and a higher level of activity, too.” The new Centre for Neurorobotic Movement Training in Bochum – the first of its kind outside Japan – wants to offer a large number of patients with mobility problems the possibility to take part in this form of nerve controlled movement therapy and thus to provide new ways of regaining their independence. In addition to this it also serves to push ahead research into application opportunities for the suit as well as to develop more therapy approaches.

Thanks to the almost 60 years of relations with Japan, it is no coincidence that Bochum has been chosen in NRW for the new Centre for Neurorobotic Movement Training. Duin promised to continue accompanying the project intensively: “For NRW as a location for medicine, settling here is of great significance. The HAL® suit shows what technical possibilities are available for treating severe illnesses today.”

Lord Mayor Dr. Ottilie Scholz reminded us about when the European Headquarters for the company Cyberdyne were set up on the BioMedicalScience Centre Bochum about a year ago: “Back then we said that the future is starting for Bochum. Today we can see that the future is becoming reality in Bochum.” The Centre for Neurorobotic Movement Training is a good example for the large range of expertise in the field of medical rehabilitation in Bochum.

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