Lite Run wins innovation award for 'spacesuit' pants

October 10, 2018 by Joe Carlson, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

A St. Paul, Minn., company's invention that uses air-powered "spacesuit" pants to train people to walk normally has won an innovation competition at an industry conference in Dallas.

St. Paul-based Lite Run Inc. won the LaunchPad technology innovation competition at this year's American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine conference in Dallas for its LiteRun System.

Lite Run President John Hauck, a longtime Minnesota med-tech engineer who left St. Jude Medical to join Lite Run, said winning the LaunchPad contest was an important recognition from industry experts.

"As a startup, you are always looking for validation among the users and the people in the rehabilitation industry. So we were very pleased," Hauck said.

The most common use of the device is with people who are relearning to walk after having a stroke. Others include people learning to walk again after partial spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries. The Minneapolis VA Health Care System recently completed a positive study for adult , while Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare is working on a study of kids who have cerebral palsy.

The LiteRun System is designed for "unweighting" therapy. Unweighting involves using harnesses or other mechanical support to lift a person's body weight so they can get used to walking again, and then slowly decreasing the support over time until they are comfortable handling the pressures of their full weight.

"It's a fairly well-known objective, when you have people who can't stand or walk, to take off some of their weight so they can start to move forward," Hauck said.

The LiteRun System includes a motorized walker that physical therapy patients can hold on to as it moves forward at walking speed. The device has straps that keep the patient from falling backward and a set of moving arms that help a patient move from sitting to standing positions.

The pants themselves include a bladder that inflates with pressurized air, supporting the patient in the standing position. The pressurization in the air pants can counteract as much as half a person's weight, allowing rehabilitation to start sooner after the initial injury.

The system also lightens the burden on physical therapists by reducing the need to lift a patient and freeing them to focus more attention on a patient's therapy objectives during treatment. A screen on the walker lets the clinicians select the amount of weight they want to remove from the patient during therapy.

"Initially you might remove half their , and later you might want to go down to 10 or 20 percent," Hauck said.

Patients retain mobility in their legs when the suit is fully pressurized, because the pants are made from multiple layers of specialized fabric that control "tensile forces" while maintaining pressure in the suit, similar to the technology used in spacesuits worn by astronauts, the company said.

Hauck said the system has a list price of less than $80,000—a cost that is borne by the hospital or clinic. The cost to patients depends on their insurance and their provider. Lite Run said the device addresses medical needs in a $500 million U.S. market that also includes traditional harnesses and costly robotic exoskeleton suits.

Judges with the LaunchPad technology competition in Dallas said the LiteRun System won because of the enthusiastic response it generated.

"LiteRun was an audience favorite, receiving the most audience votes. The judges also scored LiteRun as the best overall," said Atlanta speech-language pathologist Tracey Wallace, who chaired the LaunchPad Task Force. "All judges gave high marks to LiteRun as a new and unique way to address a rehabilitation problem with technology."

Explore further: Body support device helps people learn to walk again after a stroke, trauma


Related Stories

Novel robotic walker helps patients regain natural gait

November 21, 2014

Survivors of stroke or other neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson's disease often struggle with mobility. To regain their motor functions, these patients are required ...

Implant helps paralysed man walk again

September 24, 2018

Five years after he was paralysed in a snowmobile accident, a man in the US has learned to walk again aided by an electrical implant, in a potential breakthrough for spinal injury sufferers.

New telemedicine exercise therapy

June 1, 2018

Anyone who gets an artificial hip or knee joint has to spend a lot of time in rehabilitation. The offers are scarce, though, and working people often cannot make the appointments due to time constraints. The result: the therapy ...

Recommended for you

Solid-state catalysis: Fluctuations clear the way

February 18, 2019

The use of efficient catalytic agents is what makes many technical procedures feasible in the first place. Indeed, synthesis of more than 80 percent of the products generated in the chemical industry requires the input of ...

Engineered metasurfaces reflect waves in unusual directions

February 18, 2019

In our daily lives, we can find many examples of manipulation of reflected waves, such as mirrors, or reflective surfaces for sound that improve auditorium acoustics. When a wave impinges on a reflective surface with a certain ...

Design principles for peroxidase-mimicking nanozymes

February 18, 2019

Nanozymes, enzyme-like catalytic nanomaterials, are considered to be the next generation of enzyme mimics because they not only overcome natural enzymes' intrinsic limitations, but also possess unique properties in comparison ...

Sound waves let quantum systems 'talk' to one another

February 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have invented an innovative way for different types of quantum technology to "talk" to each other using sound. The study, published Feb. 11 in Nature ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.