An electric body suit helps people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, walk

Comprising 58 electrodes that send mild electrical stimulation to 40 key muscle groups, the suit is designed to relax spastic muscles, thereby helping people walk.
Deena Theresa
Before and After Stimulation of the Exopulse Mollii Suit.
Before and After Stimulation of the Exopulse Mollii Suit.

Ottobock 

A life-altering high-tech body suit helped a woman with multiple sclerosis walk with ease.

Earlier this year, a YouTube video released by Ottobock Professionals — a German company that develops medical technology products and treatment concepts for people with limited mobility in the fields of prosthetics, orthotics, and human mobility — revealed the wonders of the Exopulse Mollii suit worn by Louisa, who was suffering from multiple sclerosis-related spasticities.

The suit comprises 58 electrodes that send mild electrical stimulation to 40 key muscle groups. It is designed to relax spastic muscles using neurostimulation.

"When you turn a suit on, you activate a lot of electrodes on the inside of a suit to reach muscles that the brain cannot reach. Through brain injury, some muscles are beyond the reach of the brain, and the suit replaces the signal that the brain cannot produce anymore," Fredrick Lundqvist, chiropractor and inventor of the Exopulse Mollii Suit, told BBC News.

According to Ottobock, the suit is designed to be worn just an hour every other day and provides an easy, on-demand way to restore mobility and relieve spasticity-related pain. 

An easy way to restore mobility

Louisa isn't alone. Twelve-year-old Moya-May Kelly from Dublin, who is suffering from cerebral palsy, could walk up the aisle for her Confirmation in church after using the Exopulse Mollii Suit.

"It’s allowed me to become more confident. When I walk, which has allowed me just to be more independent. Before I had it, I could do certain things but not what I can do now. It’s very important for me to be able to get things and do things like everyone else," she told Newstalk reporter Josh Crosbie, in May 2022.

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The Exopulse jacket and pants are made from breathable and washable synthetic materials that contain no animal products or fibers. As per the inventor, they do not have major side-effects.

A button makes the user feel like they're in control - the Suit gives the user the power to be in charge of their spasticity symptoms. Wearers can move more freely and securely, thanks to the reaction created by the Suit that can help release muscle tension.

"Most patients get an immediate, positive result," Surfers Health Medical Centre Practice Principal Dr. Mark Jeffery, told SurfersHealth.com. "But this is not just one magic bullet therapy. If they show a benefit, these patients need to continue with this therapy. But with neural plasticity, one would imagine that there are new neural pathways that are developing, that are beneficial for the condition, and the patient can use their device less and less."

More trials are required to be done before the hi-tech suit becomes widely available

A preliminary study revealed that an hour in the Exopulse Mollii Suit helped reduce pain symptoms to a large extent. Patients who continued using the suit four weeks later experienced a reduction in pain.

In 2018, a randomized case-control study of children with spastic cerebral palsy, conducted by the Department of Children’s Rehabilitation at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, revealed that children who were randomized to hour-long Mollii Suit usage, three times a week for three weeks, "gained as much improvement in gross motor function and mobility as children who were randomised to conventional physiotherapy," as per SurfersHealth.com.

And in 2014, a non-randomized evaluation of 117 patients using the Mollii Suit showed that every patient reported at least some degree of improvement.

However, Lundqvist stressed that all patients do not react the same way as Louisa, though the suit is quite effective. More trials are needed to be done before the suit becomes widely available.

The Exopulse Mollii Suit is priced at USD 6,000.