Glee trousers: the next step

Israeli invention that helped TV soap singer walk may be coming to Britain


By Katie Taylor, December 16, 2010
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Now that is glee: Artie stands upright to the delight of fellow singers

Now that is glee: Artie stands upright to the delight of fellow singers

One of Britain's leading spinal injury units is poised to buy an Israeli device designed to help paraplegics .

The ReWalk - essentially motorised trousers - was created by Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer, who became paralysed after a car crash in 1997.

Mr Goffer, who has a PhD in electrical and computer engineering, decided to build his own device and later set up a company, Argo Medical Technologies in Yokneam, to sell them.

The trousers help a paraplegic to stand and walk with the aid of crutches. The natural tilting of the body when holding on to crutches allows the user to move forward and even climb stairs, prompted by sensors which are connected to a backpack.

Mr Goffer explained: "The user and the device work together and can only work when the two are connected; nothing about the device is robotic."

Hospitals in Italy and America have already bought them. They are in use in the Moss Rehab Centre in Philadelphia and the Valduce Hospital's Villa Beretta in Milan. Now they're attracting interest in Britain.

David Allen, director of the spinal injury unit at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital, said: "This device will play an important role for people with incomplete injuries and help nerves to heal by retraining them to work in the way they are supposed to.

"The ReWalk has unique design features: it is smaller and lighter than other devices of a similar nature, which make it more usable by the patient and their carer.

"We are very impressed and are thinking of purchasing one."

Dr Angela Gall, a spine injury consultant at London's Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, said: "There is nothing out there as sophisticated as the ReWalk.

"Hopefully in the future we will be able to purchase one, when we have undertaken research and have more money."

The ReWalk featured in the TV series Glee in America last week when paraplegic Artie Abrams used them to walk.

Artie received his ReWalk from Santa Claus, but for those who are paying, the device is available in two versions.

The ReWalk-I, suitable for institutions, will cost around £87,000 and the ReWalk-P, for personal use, costs around £50,000. Both versions will be on the market at the beginning of next year.

Mr Goffer is a quadriplegic and therefore cannot use his own device, because it requires the use of hands, arms and shoulders and considerable upper body strength.

But he said: "The ReWalk has had some very successful feedback. We are now looking into a device to help quadriplegics."

Last updated: 4:00pm, December 16 2010