Known as SUPREMISE (Super-Resolution non-invasive muscle measurements with miniaturised magnetic sensors), the project will be led by Professor Hadi Heidari of Glasgow University. Prof Heidari has been awarded £1.8m via an EPSRC Open Fellowship to develop the technology, which will seek to provide a non-invasive alternative to existing methods for monitoring electrical activity in patients’ muscles.
Currently, electromyography (EMG) can be used to measure this activity with external electrodes, but more accurate measurements require thin needles to be inserted into the muscles. Prof Heidari and his colleagues are looking to a technology known as magnetomyography (MMG) to provide highly accurate measurements without the needles.
“Diagnosing and monitoring serious neuromuscular conditions can require the regular use of needles, which can be painful and unpleasant, particularly for older people and children,” said Professor Heidari, from Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering.
“MMG has the potential to deliver improved results with less invasive measures, but the technology is still relatively new compared to EMG and there is a lot of work to be done to fully realise that potential.”
SUPREMISE will consist of wearable device similar to a smartwatch. This will be equipped with a novel MMG sensor, capable of monitoring the tiny magnetic fields created by muscles when they contract or relax. A new microchip developed as part of the project will use artificial intelligence to detect MMG signals against the background noise of electrical activity produced by the human body.
Study co-investigator Professor Kianoush Nazarpour, from Edinburgh University, will help to identify the best pathway to higher readiness levels for the technology. After the first two years of research to validate the technology, it will be field-tested over the following three years with real patients in neuromuscular treatment clinics at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Ostschweizer Children's Hospital in Switzerland and University Hospital Tübingen in Germany.
“SUPREMISE brings together some of the UK’s leading biomedical researchers and clinicians to develop a miniaturised, affordable and portable MMG monitoring system which would replace the bulky and expensive equipment which is the current state of the art,” Professor Heidari continued.
“In addition to the clinical benefits SUPREMISE is setting out to deliver, there’s also potential for this kind of ultra-sensitive muscle movement sensor to find further applications in human-machine interfacing like extended reality, gaming and consumer electronics.”
SUPREMISE is also supported by the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre at Heriot-Watt University, Delsys, and Glasgow neurotech spinout Neuranics, which is a potential commercial outlet for the wearable technology.