Monitoring muscle atrophy with the first wearable health sensor


  • Ohio State University researchers have developed the world’s first wearable sensor that monitors and detects muscle atrophy
  • They created 3D-printed moulds of an average-sized person’s calf tissue and filled them with ground beef for research validation.

In recent developments, scientists in the United States have developed a wearable sensor to detect and monitor muscle atrophy, a problem that astronauts suffer from frequently.

It is a condition in which skeletal muscle strength and mass are lost due to a variety of factors. Typically, it is a side-effect of diseases, ageing, or muscle disuse. In order to assess a patient’s muscle size and volume, physicians currently use MRIs, but frequent tests are time-consuming and costly. According to a new study published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, an electromagnetic sensor made of conductive ‘e-threads’ might be a suitable alternative to frequent monitoring by MRI.

Muscle Loss Monitoring 

The Ohio State University created 3D-printed limb moulds and filled them with ground beef to simulate the calf tissue of an average-sized human. The researchers demonstrated that a sensor resembling a blood pressure cuff could measure small changes in limb size and monitor muscle loss up to 51 per cent.

To make the device work, two coils were employed, one for transmission and one for reception, as well as a conductor made of e-threads woven into the fabric in a zig-zag pattern. Although the wearable may not be implemented for years, the study points out that the next major step would be to connect it to a mobile app that can transmit health data directly to healthcare providers.

In addition to combining the sensor with other kinds of devices, Rice, a graduate fellow in electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University, hopes to create a tool for detecting bone loss in order to improve the quality of life for future patients both on Earth and in space.