HELLEN is Australia’s first Rex Bionics exoskeleton and was purchased by AINRehab in 2016 for the Hunter community in regional NSW. This was made possible thanks to donors, in-kind supporters, and a grant contribution by Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation of $75,000.
AINRehab entered into a collaboration with the University of Newcastle to design a world-first clinical trial. This enables Hunter residents to access therapy in HELLEN at no fee to them and importantly, begins to create a body of scientific evidence about the use of this technology in people with neurological conditions such as stroke.
The trial evaluates the effects of tailored, bi-weekly sessions in HELLEN over 12 weeks. Outcome measures cover functional, health and quality of life changes. Participants can also undergo MRI scans to assess any changes in their brain activity or the structure of their brain during the trial. Participants can also undergo oxygen consumption testing to evaluate how hard they are exercising during a session in HELLEN.
The University of Newcastle research team includes Chief Investigator Jodie Marquez (senior physiotherapy academic and experienced clinician), Nicola Postol (PhD candidate and experienced physiotherapist), neuroscientist Dr Andrew Bivard and neurologist Associate Professor Neil Spratt.
The trial received ethics approval in October 2016 and continues to remain open for Hunter residents over the age of 18 years who: have been diagnosed with an acquired brain injury or Multiple Sclerosis more than 3 months ago; are no longer receiving in-patient rehabilitation; live with a severe mobility impairment; and are reliant on assistance for upright activities.
The first participants who have been enrolled in the trial are due to complete their therapy and evaluations later this year.
With further funding AINRehab and the University of Newcastle will expand the trial to include Hunter residents living with other neurological conditions. Donations to support the HELLEN research trial being run at the University of Newcastle can be made to AINRehab (registered charity), via this website.