Japan’s health ministry has approved the manufacture and sale of a wearable walk-assist robot as a therapeutic medical device for orphan diseases. It is the first wearable medical robot to be approved in Japan. Just one of several such technologies from the Japanese company, Cyberdyne, the Hybrid Assistive Limb for Medical Use, lower limb type (HAL-ll) acts as a robotic exoskeleton that can translate week nerve impulses into robotic motion, helping the patient’s limbs move in the desired direction. Evidence from trials suggest that regular training sessions with HAL-ll may help increase non-assisted movement and muscle function, potentially delaying disease progression. The system is already approved in Europe, and is primarily used by people with spinal cord injuries. In Japan, the product is targeted for use in people with ALS, as well as those suffering from other motor neuron disorders, and the company is seeking insurance coverage for ALS in Europe as well.
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