BOSTON (WHDH) - Researchers at MIT are seeking FDA approval to test new technology in people with prosthetic limbs, which could make them easier to control.

Researchers said they implanted small magnets in animals to track how their muscles contract or lengthen based on movements. The team also demonstrated the accuracy and safety of their new strategy called magnetomicrometry, which appeared in a new pair of papers.

“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,” said Cameron Taylor, an MIT research scientist and the co-lead author of both papers.

Researchers said that currently, powered prosthetic limbs are usually controlled using surface electromyography. This involves attaching electrodes to the surface of the skin or surgically implanting them in the residual muscle of the amputated limb to measure electrical signals from a person’s muscles, which are then fed to the prosthetic to help it move the way the person wearing it intends.

The team said they hope they use the sensor to control prostheses similar to the way surface EMG is used now.

“Magnets don’t require an external power source, and after implanting them into the muscle, they can maintain the full strength of their magnetic field throughout the lifetime of the patient,” said Taylor.

The technology could even expand to wearable robots in addition to prosthetic limbs, he added.

“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,” said Taylor. “We hope that magnetomicrometry will enable a person to control a wearable robot with the same comfort level and the same ease as someone would control their own limb.”

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