NUS team creates magnetic device to aid muscle recovery

Trial on knee op patients shows they regain normal muscle size and strength faster

A team of researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has created a device that uses magnetic fields to simulate the biological effects of exercise and promote muscle recovery.

The device, called MRegen, stimulates the muscles in a user's leg with a specific magnetic signature.

This releases molecules called myokines, typically produced during muscle contractions, which create metabolic activity in the cells similar to when a person exercises.

The team of 12 researchers was led by Associate Professor Alfredo Franco-Obregon from the Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research and Technology at NUS and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine's surgery department.

The researchers chose to target the user's leg because of its muscle tissue density, but the magnetic signature can be adjusted to target other kinds of tissue or organs, said Prof Franco-Obregon during a media briefing yesterday.

The release of myokines can trigger positive effects elsewhere in the body. For example, they can promote blood vessel and bone growth, reduce bodily inflammation and promote fat-burning.

Between 2015 and 2017, the team conducted two clinical trials.

The first involved 10 healthy volunteers who received 10 minutes of the treatment in one leg once a week for five weeks. By the end of the trial, they showed a 30 per cent to 40 per cent improvement in muscle strength in both legs.

The second trial involved 20 patients who had undergone anterior cruciate ligament knee surgery.

Half of them were treated with MRegen for 10 minutes a week, in addition to their normal rehabilitation therapy for four months following surgery.