Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- August 28, 2002

Cal State L.A. Faculty Member Works With Rats and Robots To Help Those With Spinal Cord Injuries Walk

Some people can be retrained to walk even after serious spinal cord injuries, says Cal State L.A. kinesiology faculty member Ray de Leon, and rats and robots are part of the solution!
De Leon is currently working on a neuroscience research project that focuses on gait retraining after spinal cord injury. The project is funded by a five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant.

“This NIH Bioengineering Research Partnership grant has UCLA as the lead institution and UC Irvine and Cal State L.A. as collaborating institutions,” says de Leon. “At Cal State L.A.’s laboratory, robotic devices are tested and are used to train rodents with spinal cord injuries. By understanding what software and hardware components of the robots work best in this rat model, we can scale it up to be suitable for people.”

According to de Leon, the research will offer Cal State L.A. students an opportunity to directly impact the development of gait-training robots. De Leon adds, “We’ve been working with a company, Robomedica Inc., that will take our prototype, produce and sell it, in order for other spinal cord injury researchers to benefit from this cutting-edge technology. Moreover, this company—in conjunction with the UCI/UCLA team and others—is now in the process of developing the gait-training robots for use by physical therapists to help rehabilitate patients with spinal cord injuries.”

De Leon, who received his Ph.D. from UCLA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutritional Science at Cal State L.A. His research and teaching focus is on neuromuscular rehabilitation and therapy. He also oversees the University’s Mobility Training Clinic for the Physically Disabled.

The National Institutes of Health is the steward of medical and behavioral research for the nation. Its mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.

CONTACT: Margie Yu, Public Affairs Specialist, (323) 343-3047

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