(ORDO NEWS) — American scientists have proposed to track muscle tension using magnetic sensors implanted inside the body.
In their study, they showed that the system can calculate muscle length in less than milliseconds, and the sensors themselves are biocompatible and safe. In the future, the technology will improve existing prosthetic limb control systems.
Using a simple system of magnets, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) have invented a new way to track muscle movements.
They have already proven the technology’s effectiveness in animal experiments and now plan to use the method to help amputees more accurately and naturally control prosthetic limbs.
Modern prosthetic limbs are usually monitored using electromyography (EMG). Electrodes attached to the surface of the skin or implanted into the residual muscle of the amputated limb measure signals from the muscles and transmit them to the prosthesis.
However, this approach does not take into account any information about the length or speed of muscle contraction, which could make the movements of the prosthesis more accurate.
For several years, the authors of the article have been working on a new way to measure muscle work. Their approach, dubbed “magnetomicrometry,” uses constant magnetic fields surrounding small balls implanted in the muscle.
A credit card-sized sensor attached to the surface of the body tracks the distances between two magnets. When the muscle contracts, the magnets move closer, and when the muscle relaxes, they move away from each other.
Scientists have previously shown that this system can be used to accurately measure small ankle movements.
Now they set out to find out if the system can make accurate measurements during natural movements outside of the lab. To do this, the researchers created an obstacle course for turkeys, whose leg muscles were implanted with sensors.
It turned out that while jumping, running and other movements, the system calculated the length of the muscles in less than a millisecond.
After that, the authors tested the biocompatibility of the implants. The magnets did not cause tissue scarring, inflammation, or other unwanted side effects.
In addition, the operation did not change the turkeys’ gait, so it is likely that the sensors did not cause discomfort.
In addition, the magnets remained stable for eight months throughout the study and did not migrate towards each other if they were implanted at least three centimeters apart.
The scientists are now planning to get approval to test the system on people with prosthetic limbs. They hope to use the sensor to control prosthetics in a similar way to how EMG is currently used.
Magnetic sensors implanted in the remaining muscles of the limb will transmit information to the prosthesis about the degree of stretching of the muscle and give it the desired position.
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