Cyberdyne, Inc. recently announced FDA marketing approval for its Medical HAL [Hybrid Assistive Limb] therapeutic device and services. Cyberdyne describes itself as a Japanese company founded by Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukub and is traded publicly on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The press release notes that Medical HAL has received previous marketing approval in Japan and the European Union.
In the press release, Cyberdyne explained that Medical HAL “is considered to be an innovative cybernic treatment device that attends to actually improve and regenerate the function of the patient’s own brain-nerve-physical systems, instead of an orthosis that physically supports the patient to walk or a robot that repeatedly performs specific movements for its patients.” The press release further describes Medical HAL as designed as an exoskeletal aid that attaches to a patient’s limb to assist their movement. Rather than providing movement to the limb through preprogramed algorithms or artificial intelligence, Medical HAL is controlled through nerve signals received with bioelectric sensors attached to the patient’s body. These bioelectric sensors attach at various places on the body, including the lower spine, legs, and arms. The sensors are designed to sense specific nerve signals sent from the patient’s brain to muscles in the limb. These signals can then be translated into specific motions in the exoskeletal aid that assist natural movement of the limb.
Current testing and research is being conducted that uses Medical HAL as an aid for retraining patients with severe nerve damage through physical therapy. According to the press release, retrained nerves and limbs can function similarly to the way they functioned before nerve damage. One example of a positive patient outcome relates to a patient who injured his spine and lower back, leaving one leg paralyzed. After treatment and training for several months with the Medical HAL device, he was able to improve control over that leg and eventually walk with the aid of a walker.
According to public USPTO databases, patents and publications listing Cyberdyne as the assignee include the following: “Wearing-Type Movement Assistance Device,” “Electrodes For Biopotential Measurement, Biopotential Measuring Apparatus, And Biopotential Measuring Method,” and “Ambulation Training Device And Ambulation Training System.”