Medhealth Review

Now, We Have Magnetic Sensors to Track Muscle Length

Researchers are hopeful that better control systems for prosthetic limbs are now possible thanks to a new technology.

MIT researchers have developed a sophisticated way to analyze and control muscle movements using simple magnetic sets.

The discovery can be instrumental in making it easier for people who had to go for amputations to control their prosthetic limbs strictly. 

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“These recent results demonstrate that this tool can be used outside the lab to track muscle movement during natural activity, and they also suggest that the magnetic implants are stable and biocompatible and that they don’t cause discomfort,” informs Cameron Taylor, a research scientist at MIT.

Presently, powered limbs are controlled by something called Surface Electromyography or EMG. 

When this process is employed, electrodes connected to the skin’s surface or implanted surgically in the residual amputated limb muscle measure electric signals from muscles. These signals are later fed into the prosthesis to enable it per the patient’s wish. 

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Although this process is widely used, more information about the muscle velocity or length must be collected. This data is essential to make the prosthetic movements highly accurate. 

The latest development about the new approach is that researchers are planning to secure FDA approval to test the system in people having prosthetic limbs. 

They are hopeful that sensors could be used to control prostheses like how EMG is used now. For example, muscle length measurements would be transferred to the control system to enable a transfer to the position that the person wearing it intends. 

“The place where this technology fills a need is in communicating those muscle lengths and velocities to a wearable robot so that the robot can perform in a way that works in tandem with the human, continues Taylor.

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