This Robotic Exoskeleton May Help Kids with Spine Deformities to Avoid Surgery


Spine brace for lateral curvation. Photo by Arallyn via


A team of researchers from Columbia Engineering recently designed a Robotic Spine Exoskeleton called RoSE that may pave the way to new treatments for kids with spine deformities. This was published in the IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.

The researchers reportedly designed RoSE to further characterize the human torso’s three-dimensional stiffness and to study its vivo measurements. According to Columbia Engineering’s mechanical engineering professor Sunil Agrawal, who is also the principal investigator of the study and a professor of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine in Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the earlier studies used cadavers that don’t offer much of a dynamic picture. RoSE, on the other hand, is the first ever device that can modulate and measure the position or the forces of the torso in all its six degrees of freedom. The 6DoF is the freedom of movement of a rigid body in three-dimensional space, such as the body’s freedom to move forward and backward, up and down, left and right, and this can be combined with rotation in three perpendicular axes.

RoSE was developed in the Robotics and Rehabilitation Laboratory of Prof. Agrawal. The device is made up of three rings that are placed on the upper-thoracic, pelvis, and the mid-thoracic regions of the human spine. The motion of the two rings is then controlled by the 6DoF parallel-actuated robot.

Study’s co-principal investigator and spine surgeon David Roye said, “Our results open up the possibility of designing spine braces that incorporate patient-specific torso stiffness characteristics.”

Agrawal adds that the directional difference in the spine’s stiffness may help predict those children who can avoid surgery and benefit from bracing.