'Muscle minder' could help disabled to walk

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RESEARCHERS are developing an electronic 'muscle minder' device that could transform life for the disabled and elderly.

The Bristol University prototype machine mimics parts of the human nervous system to make up for limb disability. For some wheelchair- bound victims, it offers the chance of standing, if not walking, again.

Stroke and accident victims and sufferers from neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis are most likely to benefit.

The Bristol device, which will take three years to develop commercially, 'knows' the amount of force required for normal movement. It assesses the reduced strength available in the affected limb and provides an electrical stimulus to the muscles.

Stimulator devices already on the market cannot take account of the changing forces required for differing movements as they occur.