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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Researchers have developed a sophisticated way to monitor muscle movements, which they hope will make it easier for amputees to control their prostheses using magnets.

In a pair of new papers, the researchers demonstrated the accuracy and safety of their magnet-based system that tracks the length of muscles during movement. Studies conducted in animals hope that this strategy can help people with prosthetic devices control their movements in a way that more closely mimics natural limb movement.

“Recent results suggest that this device can be used outside the laboratory to track muscle movements during natural activity, and that the magnetic implants are stable and biocompatible, and that they do not cause discomfort,” said Cameron Taylor of MIT, a researcher and lead author of both papers.

© MIT |

A new approach uses a small, tiny magnet to measure muscle position.

In one study, researchers were able to accurately measure the length of turkey calves as the birds ran, By jumping and doing other natural activities. In another study, The tiny magnetic beads used for the measurements showed no swelling or other side effects when inserted into the muscle.

Associate Director of K. Lisa; “I am very excited about the practical potential of this new technology to improve control and efficiency for people with limb loss,” said Hugh Herr, professor of media arts and sciences, MIT’s McGovern Associate Member of the Yang Center for Bionics at MIT.

© MIT |

A new muscle measurement method uses a magnet between two small beads implanted in a muscle. Using a tiny sensor mounted on the outside of the body, the system can track the distances between two magnets as muscles contract and stretch.

Institute of Brain Research.

Herr is the senior author of both papers appearing today in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. in Ecology from Brown University; Thomas Roberts, professor of evolutionary and biological biology, is the senior author of the measured study.

Activity tracking.
Currently, Powered prostheses are controlled by a method called surface electromyography (EMG). Electrical devices affixed to the surface of the skin or surgically implanted into the residual muscle of an amputated limb measure the electrical signals from the person’s muscles to allow the wearer to move as intended.

However, That method doesn’t take into account information about muscle length or velocity, which could help make prosthetic movements more precise.

Several years ago, an MIT team began working on a novel method for measuring these muscles, using an approach they call magnetomicrometry. This strategy takes advantage of permanent magnetic fields around tiny beads implanted in a muscle. credit card size Using a compass-like sensor, their system can track distances between two magnets. When the muscles contract, As the magnets move closer together, they move further apart as they move.

In a study published last year, researchers showed that this system could be used to accurately measure blood pressure when beads were implanted in turkey calves. In a new study, Researchers have established that accurate measurements can be made during more natural activities in a non-laboratory setting.

To do that, I created a ramp that was an obstacle for the turkeys to climb and boxes for the turkeys to jump off. The researchers used their magnetic sensor to track muscle movements during these movements, and found that the system could calculate muscle lengths in less than a millisecond.

They compared their data with measurements using fluoromicrometry, a type of X-ray technique that requires much larger equipment than magnetic micrometry. Magnetic micrometry measurements differ from those produced by fluorometry by less than one millimeter on average.

“Using a smaller, more portable package, we were able to provide the muscle length tracking functionality of room-sized x-ray devices and collect continuous data for 10 seconds. This is limited in fluoromicrometry,” says Taylor.

MIT graduate student Seong Ho Yeon is also co-lead author of the measurement study. Other authors include MIT Research Support Associate Ellen Clarrissimeaux and Brown University postdoc Mary Kate O’Donnell.

In the second document, The researchers focused on the biocompatibility of the implants. Magnets are tissue scars, They found that it did not cause inflammation or other harmful effects. They showed that the implanted magnets did not alter the turkey’s gait and did not cause discomfort. William Clark, a postdoc at Brown, co-led the biocompatibility study.

The researchers showed that the implants remained stable for the eight-month duration of the study, and remained in place as long as they were implanted at least 3 centimeters apart. The researchers hypothesized that the beads, which contain a magnetic core made of gold and a polymer called parylene, could remain in tissue indefinitely once implanted.

“Magnets do not need an external energy source; Once inserted into the muscle, their magnetic field can be fully maintained throughout the patient’s life,” says Taylor.

The researchers now plan to seek FDA approval to test the system on people with prosthetic limbs. They hope to use the sensor to control prosthetics similar to how surface EMG is now used: measurements about the length of the muscles to guide the wearer to the intended position.

“Where this technology fills a need is to communicate muscle length and speed to the wearable robot, so the robot can perform in a human-like manner,” Taylor said. “We hope that magnetic micrometry will allow a person to control a wearable robot with the same level of comfort and control as easily as someone can control their own limbs.”

In addition to prostheses, These wearable robots may include robotic skeletons worn outside the body to help people move their legs or arms more easily.

The research was supported by the Salah Foundation, K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics at MIT; MIT Media Lab Consortia; Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.


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