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by Sofia Villegas
30 October 2023
University of Glasgow to develop wearable diagnostic device for neuromuscular diseases

The device will undergo two years of research and three of real-life testing | Alamy

University of Glasgow to develop wearable diagnostic device for neuromuscular diseases

A researcher from the University of Glasgow (UoG) has received £1.8m of funding to develop a smart-watch-like device to measure the progress of neuromuscular diseases.   

The Engineering and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council­ (EPSRC) has awarded an Open Fellowship to nanoelectronics Professor Hadi Heidari to create the wearable device. 

Currently, doctors usually have to carry out an electromyography (EMG) to diagnose and monitor neuromuscular conditions, which include muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease.   

When practitioners require precise EMG feedback, they have to insert needles into the patient’s muscles to measure their electrical activity.    

However, the new device will take needle-free measures using magnetomyography (MMG) – which monitors the magnetic fields muscles create when contracting or relaxing - allowing for a less invasive and painful process.   

Heidari said: “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.    

“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.” 

The project – called SUPer-REsolution non-invasive Muscle measurements with miniaturised magnetIc SEnsors, also known as SUPREMISE – will use state-of-the-art tech to develop a new MMG sensor and microchip which will use AI to pick MMG signals.  

The UoG is also building Scotland’s first-ever magnetic shield laboratory at its James Watt School of Engineering to support the programme.  

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh will also be part of the team, with digital health professor Kianoush Nazarpour working to accelerate the progress of the research to higher readiness levels. 

Heidari said: “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.  

“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.”   

Following two years of research, the device will undergo a three-year testing period, where patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Ostschweizer Children's Hospital in Switzerland and University Hospital Tübingen in Germany, will wear it.

Heriot-Watt University’s medical device manufactuing centre Delsys, and tech start-up Neuranics are also supporting the project. 

EPSRC is the UK’s main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research, and it supports innovative ideas in fields including digital tech, clean energy and mathematics.   

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